EDISON – Middlesex County College students, faculty and staff rallied at the college Monday for a fair contract.
In addition, members of the Middlesex County College American Federation of Teachers unit called on the college to end its contract with Jackson Lewis, an “anti-union” law firm that is leading the negotiations, according to a statement from the American Federation of Teachers New Jersey.
The Middlesex County College American Federation of Teachers unit represents more than 140 dedicated professionals who work with students every day in the classrooms and library, providing direct support through mentoring, counseling and admissions to keep the university running, the statement said. Their contract expired June 30, 2016.
Escalating health insurance costs have led to decreases in take-home pay, while Middlesex College management engages notorious anti-union law firm Jackson Lewis to lead negotiations, according to the statement.
For the past 16 years as president of the faculty union at Middlesex County College, Criminal Justice Professor Patricia Payne and her team have been bargaining contracts for a full-time faculty unit, the statement said.
Since their contract expired, negotiations have been different, as faculty members are working without a contract and engaged in contentious negotiations, Payne said in the statement.
“College management is taking a hard line by sending Jackson Lewis to the table and the bargaining process has suffered as a result,” Payne said. “The college budget should go towards helping students succeed, but Middlesex management has diminished the ranks of tenure track faculty to 140 down from a high of 190 in past years, while student enrollments have increased. My colleagues on the faculty here are concerned about decisions made for economics that do not consider the academic implications on the college as a whole.”
“Engaging a firm like Jackson Lewis that has a history of adversarial relations with labor unions across the country is a waste of student and taxpayer money, according to AFT New Jersey President Donna M. Chiera, a retired Perth Amboy teacher. “As a Middlesex County resident and educator from a district that sends many students to the school, I am joining the call to let Jackson Lewis’ contract expire and the Board of Trustees to bargain a fair contract directly with the faculty.”
The union has launched a petition campaign at www.aftnj.org calling for the trustees to dump Jackson Lewis.
The Middlesex County College AFT faculty unit “is committed to seeking a speedy resolution resulting in a fair contract for members,” Payne said, adding that a few summer dates proposed were in conflict with faculty or counsel planned vacations so the union asked for alternate dates and remains available to meet.
Peterson said “it would be great if summer dates can be arranged.”
“I am proud to stand with AFT New Jersey and the Middlesex Faculty local in standing up for higher education and a fair contract,” said Charles Wowkanech, president of the New Jersey AFL-CIO. “We know that health insurance costs for public workers have increased dramatically since 2011 legislation. Since that legislation sunset last year, health insurance is open for discussion and Middlesex County College management should bargain a fair contract with faculty now.”
“The faculty and staff here at Middlesex County College work tirelessly to educate and support their students,” Biological Science student Oticia Brisport said in the union’s statement. “Giving them affordable health insurance and fair working conditions is not generosity. They have earned it.”