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Photos: Reclaim Rutgers Statehouse press conference

State Senator Linda Greenstein

State Senator Linda Greenstein

Rutgers Faculty and Staff Joined At Statehouse By Elected Officials In Calling For Fair Contracts

‘Reclaim Rutgers’ Remains United in Fight For Fair Salaries & Decent Benefits

(Trenton, NJ) – Today, Rutgers faculty and staff in contract negotiations with the university were joined by state legislators, unions leaders and other allies on the steps of the State House. Together, they called on President Robert Barchi and the Rutgers Board of Governors to come to the bargaining table in good faith.

Reclaim Rutgers – a dynamic coalition of faculty and staff unions – remains united in this fight for fair salaries and decent benefits. Right now, 20,000 Rutgers workers are represented by unions in difficult contract negotiations. These men and women have gone at least three years without a raise. All the while, the cost of living – particularly health care costs in the state plan – has drastically increased.

“Rutgers is a world-class institution, and that’s due in no small part to the hard-working men and women who make up the university’s faculty and staff,” said Senator Linda Greenstein (LD-14). “These New Jersey residents and workers are simply asking to be able to bargain in good faith. They deserve nothing less than our full support. They deserve a fair contract and decent benefits.”

How Did These Graduate Students Improve Their Working Conditions? They Went on Strike!

By Michelle Chen

grad student strike

University of Oregon graduate teaching fellows picket on December 4, 2014, during their eight-day strike for better working conditions. (Justin Buchanan/AFT-OR Communications)


University of Oregon graduate teaching fellows picket on December 4, 2014, during their eight-day strike for better working conditions. (Justin Buchanan/AFT-OR Communications)

On their campus set amid the idyllic northwestern woodlands, graduate students at the University of Oregon stepped out of their classrooms and onto a historic picket line last week. The union, representing some 1,500 graduate teaching fellows, went on an eight-day strike and emerged Wednesday with a final deal, embattled but triumphant.

The agreement, now set for a final vote, fell somewhat short of their central request for paid family and medical leave. Instead, the university will establish a “hardship fund” to support graduate students who need time off to tend to healthcare needs, including students who are not employees or union members. From a fund of about $150,000 ($50 per graduate student), students will apply for grants “up to $1,000 in the case of serious medical issues and $1,500 in the case of the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child.” The union also got a 10 percent wage hike over two years.

These benefits clearly provide just emergency supplemental support, but will make life a little easier for the graduate fellows, who teach about one-third of the university’s coursework while juggling their studies and caregiving duties. According to the GTFF, their gross annual income ranges from $12,000 to $19,000—in line with national compensation trends for student instructors. They’re part of an overall shift in academic labor toward lower-paid graduate student and adjunct teachers who lack the salaries and benefits afforded to established professors.

For young academics stretched between intense academic pressures, massive student debts and wages that put doctoral candidates on food stamps, benefits like paid leave may be the only financial buffer against a sudden illness or family medical emergency.

Throughout the strike, the union encouraged undergraduates to see the temporary campus disruption in the context of their teachers’ long-term well-being. GTFF Vice President of External Affairs Jon LaRochelle (a philosophy student) told The Nation just before the deal was reached: “Our working conditions are their learning conditions. If we are coming to work sick or injured or the morning after a birth or whatever else, we can’t teach. That’s just the nature of being a human being.… We are doing this in part so that we can do the best job that we can for you.”

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Elizabeth school board calls on Kean University to sell $219k conference table

By Katie Lannan, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

ELIZABETH — The city’s Board of Education has passed a resolution calling on Kean University to sell its controversial $219,000 conference table and put the funds toward reducing tuition or improving campus services, including student parking.

The school district is also asking its counterparts throughout Union County to take similar action, in hopes of sending a message to the university’s Board of Trustees.

Kean attracted national attention last month when news broke that the public university, with an enrollment of around 12,000 undergraduates, had spent $219,000 on a high-tech, multimedia table and associated electronics.

“Spending such a large amount of money on a piece of furniture shocks the senses,” Board of Education president Tony Monteiro said in a statement. “Those families who struggle to support and finance the education of their children at taxpayer-financed institutions like Kean dserve to have an answer as to how this university can continue down this path of reckless spending and largesse.”

The board believes Kean’s Board of Trustees must work to “stem the tide of misspending” at the school, the statement said.

Monteiro said he and his colleagues on the board consider the table part of a trend at the school, in which high-cost campus upgrades with “little relevance to the quality of education” are prioritized over students’ needs.

As an example, he pointed to the restaurant Ursino on the school’s main Union Township campus, a high-end establishment not linked to any academic programs.

“Kean’s $2.5 million restaurant and other vanity projects have shifted limited resources away from what is needed the most, like providing an affordable college education,” Monteiro said. “That needs to be the university’s main focus.”

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Raritan Valley students rally against racism at ‘die-in’

BRANCHBURG – For three minutes they lay outstretched on the cold concrete of the courtyard of Raritan Valley Community College.

And then 11 times they chanted, “I can’t breathe,” a dramatic reminder of what Eric Garner said 11 times before he died because of a choke hold given to him by a police officer who was trying to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes on a Staten Island street.

The two dozen people finally stood after their outlines were traced in chalk, a symbolic crime-scene representation of their solidarity with unarmed black men who have been killed by police.

Like thousands on campuses across the country on Thursday, a group of Raritan Valley Community College students and teachers expressed outrage against unwarranted police violence by staging a “die-in.”

The rally, which drew close to 40 people, also carried the message that racism still is prevalent in American culture, despite media assertions, one professor said, that America is a “post-racism society.”

Andrea Vaccaro, an assistant professor of English as a Second Language and an organizer of the event, said she was “impressed” with the turnout on a blustery afternoon at the end of the semester.

Vaccaro, who said the “die-in” was organized in a just a few days through an email blast, said it will be up to the students to decide whether they want to remain active, organize more events and maintain a campus dialogue on racism.

Carl Lindskoog, a history professor, said the event was more than a “die-in” and invoked the words from student protests nearly a half-century ago.

“It’s a teach-in and a speak-out,” he said .

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At Senate Confirmation Hearing, Hespe Takes Some Tough Questions

By John Mooney

Topics acting commissioner tackles: Abbott v. Burke, salary caps, state-takeover districts, school choice and, inevitably, Cami Anderson

David Hespe’s qualifications to be confirmed as state education commissioner were never much of an issue; afterall, he held the job a decade ago.

But his confirmation hearing before the Senate judiciary committee yesterday still came with some pointed questions as to his positions and to those of his boss, Gov. Chris Christie, that may not have swayed votes but certainly added to the debate.

In the end, the committee voted unanimously to recommend confirmation for Hespe, presumably when the Senate meets next on Monday.

The vote will be more procedural than anything else, removing Hespe’s tag as “acting commissioner” but not much changing his job.

Still, he faced questions on several of the tough issues he confronts in that job, from the state’s ongoing takeover of its most troubled districts to salary caps for superintendents statewide.

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Rally to Reclaim Rutgers Dec. 9, 2014

Videos Photos
Reclaim Rutgers videosReclaim Rutgers videos
Reclaim Rutgers if students, staff, faculty united for fair contracts and a better university
Reclaim Rutgers if students, staff, faculty united for fair contracts and a better university
Anthropology Prof. David Hughes
Anthropology Prof. David Hughes
Sen. Rice, HPAE VP Bernie Gerard, State Sen. Linda Greenstein, Asm. Tom Giblin
Sen. Rice, HPAE VP Bernie Gerard, State Sen. Linda Greenstein, Asm. Tom Giblin
State Senator Ron Rice
State Senator Ron Rice
Lucye Millerand
Lucye Millerand

Sweeney unveils new bill aimed at streamlining Rutgers board

By Patricia Alex, Staff Writer, The Record.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney on Tuesday moved to fast-track a bill aimed at streamlining the way Rutgers University is governed.

The legislation would reduce the number of members on the Rutgers Board of Trustees from 59 to 41, but it would not substantially diminish the group’s influence – something Sweeney had sought and Rutgers had fought in the past.

The bill was introduced in Trenton following a unanimous vote by the Rutgers Board of Governors in New Brunswick on Tuesday agreeing to the changes. In exchange, Sweeney said in a statement that he would not move forward with an earlier bill that would have increased political appointees on the governing board.

[...]

Meanwhile, more than 250 staff rallied during the governing board’s meeting Tuesday to protest a lack of progress in contract talks. Rutgers is in negotiations with as many as 20,000 employees. About 35 protesters attended the meeting, sometimes chanting and shouting.

Professor David Hughes urged the governing board take a closer look at labor relations on all three campuses. He noted that both President Robert L. Barchi and Football Coach Kyle Flood got bonuses last year while many staffers worked with an expired contract.

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Board of Governors review University issues, AAUP-AFT stages protest at meeting

Board of Governors listens to pleas for fairer contracts, proposes changes to governance structure, instates revisions to Code of Conduct

Dec. 9 Board of Governors

Photo by Colin Pieters | Members of the Rutgers chapter of the American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers protest the Dec. 9 Board of Governors meeting, demanding fairer contracts.

By Katie Park

Members of the Rutgers chapter of the American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers protest the Dec. 9 Board of Governors meeting, demanding fairer contracts.

The semester’s first Board of Governors meeting, held two months ago at Rutgers-Camden, was a quiet affair. Of the several rows of seats, only the first was filled.

At the semester’s second and final Board of Governors meeting, held Dec. 9 at Winants Hall on the College Avenue campus, members from the Rutgers chapter of the American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers shouted rally cries. Almost every seat was filled by a protester.

The AAUP-AFT members’ clamoring could be heard from outside Winants Hall: “What do we want?” they chanted. “Fair contracts. When do we want them? Now.”

The protestors toted large red and white signs displaying messages such as “President Barchi: Fair contracts now,” and “Rutgers works because we do: Bargain in good faith.”

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Ranking the paychecks: What presidents at N.J.’s private colleges are making

By Adam Clark, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Former Drew University President Robert Weisbuch made $1.1 million in salary and other compensation during 2012, making him the highest paid private college president in New Jersey that year, according to a study by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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