Both sides of Rutgers impasse announce deal to end strike

Classes for the school’s 67,000 students will resume Monday

By: - April 15, 2023 7:17 am

Rutgers faculty, staff, students, and supporters on strike in New Brunswick on April 10, 2023. (Daniella Heminghaus for New Jersey Monitor)

Rutgers University and unions representing its faculty members have agreed on what they’re calling a “framework” for a tentative new contract, ending a five-day strike that saw the school’s 9,000 teachers walk off the job for the first time in Rutgers’ 257-year history.

The agreement, announced by Gov. Phil Murphy at nearly 1 a.m. Saturday, addresses the “core issues” of two of the three striking unions, officials said, but both sides issued statements in support of the deal and said classes will resume Monday for the university’s 67,000 students. The strike came just weeks before final exams and graduation.

“We are not done yet, but we feel we’ve made enough progress on some of the core issues that we were fighting for,” Rutgers professor Amy Higer said during a union update Saturday afternoon.

Higer, president of the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union, which represents part-time lecturers,  characterized the unions’ agreement to return to classrooms Monday as a suspension of the strike, not an end to it.

Rutgers faculty members — professors, part-time adjunct lecturers, counselors, and graduate student instructors — have worked under an expired contract for nearly a year. Union leaders said when they announced the walkout that Rutgers administrations had not been negotiating in good faith.

Rebecca Givan, president of Rutgers American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement released by Murphy’s office that the agreement “sets a new standard.”

“Our members did this. Strikes work,” she said on Twitter.

Union officials said the deal includes:

  • A 48% pay increase by 2025 for adjunct teachers.
  • A 33% hike for teaching and graduate assistants by 2025.
  • Presumptively renewable contracts for non-tenure track faculty characterized as “tenure-like.”
  • An 8% raise in the minimum salary for those faculty members.
  • A 14% raise for full-time faculty and counselors by 2025.
  • A 28% raise in minimum pay for postdoctoral fellows and associates.

Medical faculty, represented by the American Association of University Professors–Biomedical and Health Sciences of New Jersey, are the union still negotiating its core demands, and the other two unions also have issues that remain unresolved, according to Givan.

If union members vote to approve the final agreement, it would represent a big win for Murphy, who called negotiators to his office on Monday and was heavily involved in brokering a deal.

“This fair and amicable conclusion respects the interests of many different stakeholders, upholds New Jersey’s values, and puts an end to a standoff that was disruptive to our educators and students alike,” Murphy said in a statement.

The university hinted when the strike began that it would use legal action to force an end to the strike — judges in New Jersey have repeatedly found public workers cannot walk off the job — but in the end, the school never sought an injunction over the walkout.

Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway, in a statement released by Murphy’s office, said the agreement “provides fair and equitable wages, benefits, and work conditions for our faculty as well as our graduate students and part-time lecturers.”

The deal would be retroactive to July 1, 2022, and include back pay for workers, Holloway said.

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Terrence T. McDonald
Terrence T. McDonald

Editor Terrence T. McDonald is a native New Jerseyan who has worked for newspapers in the Garden State for more than 15 years. He has covered everything from Trenton politics to the smallest of municipal squabbles, exposing public corruption and general malfeasance at every level of government. Terrence won 23 New Jersey Press Association awards and two Tim O’Brien Awards for Investigative Journalism using the Open Public Records Act from the New Jersey chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. One politician forced to resign in disgrace because of Terrence’s reporting called him a "political poison pen journalist.”