‘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.”

“I remain fully committed to supporting the educators and professional staff at Rutgers University, as they continue their discussions with administration for fairer wages and better work conditions,” said Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin (LD-18).

Rutgers University’s own data points to there being $700 million in unrestricted funds – up from $600 million – at their disposal. The university has the ability to spend these funds on ‘any lawful purpose.’ So, there is no reason this money shouldn’t be invested in the faculty and staff who commit their lives to making Rutgers the best place it can be.

“The 20,000 hard-working men and women employed by Rutgers University deserve a contract that is fair and respects their contributions to the state’s flagship university,” said Charles Wowkanech, President of the one million-member New Jersey State AFL-CIO. “The state federation encourages everyone to join in solidarity as faculty, staff, students, legislators and alumni rally to Reclaim Rutgers. We urge university administrators to negotiate fair contracts now.”

“Dedicated faculty and staff are asking for fairness in bargaining, but also asking for much more—to reclaim Rutgers as a university dedicated to openness, transparency and opportunity,” said Donna Chiera, President New Jersey American Federation of Teachers. “Budgetary decisions should be made in the best long-term interests of the university – which means prioritizing funding to offset tuition costs and for recruiting and retaining quality education workers to teach, conduct research and work with students.”

“More than 2,500 health professionals and Registered Nurses are bargaining a first contract with Rutgers since the reorganization with UMDNJ said Bernie Gerard, RN, Vice-President Health Professionals & Allied Employees. ” Our members serve and protect the public health, and we bring to Rutgers years of experience and value in medical research and health care delivery. We’re fighting for recognition for that value, through fair wages and access to the same tuition reimbursement and benefits that other Rutgers employees receive. Dr. Barchi must honor Rutgers University’s bargaining commitments. If Dr. Barchi wants Rutgers to be a premier healthcare university; he must provide the same support, resources and commitment to health care that he does to Big Ten Football.”

“Rutgers reports a budget surplus year after year, but offers us a raise that is less than half of what the State College system workers received for this year,” said Lucye Millerand, President of Union of Rutgers Administrators-AFT. “Rutgers plans building projects five to ten years in advance, but they tell us that they can’t commit to pay our negotiated salaries from one year to the next. Rutgers pays 79 executives over $250,000, but they expect workers making as little as $28,000 a year to tighten their belts. Rutgers has the ability to fund a fair contract for every worker on every campus without raising tuition a single dollar. It’s just a question of priorities.”

Rutgers management continues to sit on hundreds of millions of dollars in reserve. All the while, staff and faculty fall behind and watch as their contracts are looted for administrative perks and misplaced priorities. Moreover, current contracts contain language that allows Rutgers to give itself the ability to not implement agreed-to salary increases without renegotiating. A fair contract would eliminate that language.

“Rutgers unilaterally froze faculty and staff salaries back in 2010, violating the contracts and the negotiated increases,” said Adrienne Eaton, Distinguished Professor in the School of Management & Labor Relations and Chair of the AAUP-AFT Negotiating Team. “Because of this, our members can no longer trust a contract that contains ‘subject to’ language in it. Rutgers management is essentially blaming the state when the state doesn’t negotiate these contracts and never funds these increases.”

“For Rutgers to fulfill the promises of the higher education restructuring act, it must start investing in its faculty and staff,” said Lisa Klein, AAUP-AFT President and Distinguished Professor of Material Sciences, Rutgers School of Engineering. “If not, then we’ve all overinvested our time over the past two years working out the details and implementing the merger. This new Rutgers should be greater than the sum of its parts. Its greatness doesn’t come from President Barchi’s office or from a campus chancellor. Greatness happens in our classrooms and laboratories, in the counselor’s office, and in the health centers and medical offices. The greatness is in the success of our students, it’s time to invest in that!”

Last week, Reclaim Rutgers released an open letter to President Barchi and the Board of Governors, calling on them to come to the bargaining table in good faith. This letter was signed by scores of leaders from throughout New Jersey – including members of congress, state legislators, mayors, community organizers, labor unions and notable alumni.

You can follow @ReclaimRutgers on twitter, and like it on Facebook at www.facebook.com/reclaimrutgers.

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