New UI law is a victory for N.J.’s adjuncts

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Nov. 10 signed legislation that will enable adjunct professors in the Garden State to collect unemployment insurance benefits.

The new law was met with praise from AFT and AFTNJ leaders.

“The passage of this legislation is a perfect example of the positive change that can occur when you elect people who care about workers,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Thank you, Gov. Phil Murphy, and the other pro-labor officials responsible for coming up with a solution to a problem that’s plagued part-time, non-tenured college and university educators for years.

“With America still in the midst of a pandemic and economic crisis that’s disproportionately hurt contingent workers, access to unemployment insurance could not come at a better time for New Jersey’s adjuncts,” Weingarten added. “The significance of this legislation should not be limited to state borders: By recognizing the efforts of adjuncts, New Jersey can serve as a model for the entire country to follow.”

“I wish to thank Gov. Phil Murphy; bill sponsors Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney, Sen. Sandra B. Cunningham, Assemblywoman Joann Downey and Assemblyman Jamel C. Holley; and Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin for passing this legislation to address a longstanding disadvantage facing adjunct professors in New Jersey,” said AFTNJ President Donna M. Chiera. “Adjuncts are among higher education’s most valuable employees, yet they are among the lowest paid. Furthermore, while contributing to the unemployment benefit system for decades, they have not been able to take advantage of it when needed.”

Chiera added, “As Sen. Sweeney said in September, adjuncts in New Jersey are enduring ‘the same economic hardship and anxiety as others, and they deserve the same safeguards as everyone else.’ This legislation is a step in the right direction for adjuncts to access the financial safeguards that are essential to anyone who is out of work through no fault of their own.”

“Adjunct faculty, while forced to pay into unemployment, have historically been subject to inconsistent evaluations in terms of their right to collect when unemployed,” said Dr. Susanna Tardi, AFTNJ higher education executive vice president. “The precarious nature of their work and our current health crisis have produced an economic hardship that many workers are experiencing in our state and across our nation. This groundbreaking legislation provides greater clarity for the conditions under which education employees are eligible to collect, and it increases the likelihood that the evaluation of unemployment claims by this class of employees will be fair and equitable.” 

“On behalf of all New Jersey adjunct faculty, I would like to thank Gov. Murphy, Senate President Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Coughlin and the New Jersey legislature for recognizing the fact that even though adjunct faculty pay into the unemployment system, it has been difficult to collect when we are not teaching — usually not by our choice,” said Bill Lipkin, the secretary/treasurer for the United Adjunct Faculty of New Jersey (Local 2222). “We make up almost 75 percent of the faculty in higher education, and we need to have access to the same benefits as other public workers. Hopefully this law will simplify the process and allow adjunct faculty the right to survive when they are not employed.”