With Gov. Chris Christie’s deadline for merging Rowan University and Rutgers-Camden approaching, debate is still raging over the plan. There have been some questions about the position of the teaching staff at Rowan University. Professor Karen Siefring, who is the president of Local 2373 of the New Jersey American Federation of Teachers (AFT), spoke with NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider about the merger plan and ongoing contract negotiations for teaching staff.
Siefring said the local union’s position on the Rutgers-Rowan merger has remain unchanged. “We’re basically neutral about the merger,” she said, adding when union representatives testified before the Higher Education Commission on the Rowan campus, they said the commission could either support or reject the report.
While the Local 2373 union has chosen to remain neutral, Siefring said that the group has supported other unions’ positions to oppose the merger. “We’re part of a coalition of unions and in that we’re supporting all the unions’ positions, their individual positions, on the matter,” she said. “Supporting them in doing what they feel is best for their members and their organization isn’t the same as supporting the positions that they’re taking.”
Members of AFT Local 2373 have not had a contract in nearly a year, Siefring said, adding to the uncertainty. Professors and faculty members on campuses throughout the state held rallies recently to bring attention to the lack of a contract. While negotiations have taken time, Seifring is hopeful a settlement can be reached.
“I think having the rallies is just showing that we’re all behind each other and all supporting each other and moving this forward. I believe there’s been some motion from the state and some motion from us so I’m hopeful that it will be resolved,” she said. “I think it will probably take us through the summer but I’m always hopeful that reasonable people can come with together and have reasonable decisions.”
Siefring said she believes contract negotiations will continue for some time. To reach a deal, she said both sides need “to come to the table ready to make the decisions that need to be made.”