Like they did at their Dec. 6 rally in New Brunswick for new contracts, Rutgers University unions endured raw weather Feb. 28 for the centerpiece of their Take Back Rutgers actions on the Newark campus.
Following the first of two scheduled indoor discussions about solidarity, an estimated 200 people gathered for an outdoor rally on the steps of the Paul Robeson Campus Center. Eric Richard, legislative affairs director for the New Jersey State AFL-CIO, was the first speaker, telling the crowd, “We need to stand together in solidarity to make sure Rutgers respects its workforce, works towards a fair contract, so that we all can see the value in what you do every day and the value of higher education.”
AFT Secretary-Treasurer Fedrick C. Ingram traveled from Florida that morning for the event and stressed that the Rutgers administration still has time “to make this right.”
“You’ve got time to give your time to the people, to give funds to the people, to understand what’s actually going on, to know whose shoulders you stand on, to know who understands our students and who is going to push this university forward,” Ingram said.
Then he assured the crowd: “I just came by to let you know that AFT is going to be with you. AFT is not only here: We’ve got your back, we’ve got your front, we’ve got your side … And the last thing I’ll tell you: Stay together. This is going to be a hard fight.”
Other rally speakers included Rutgers AAUP-AFT President Rebecca Givan and Amazon Labor Union President Chris Smalls. That same day, two of the Rutgers unions launched a strike authorization vote that will continue through March 10.