Rutgers University strike sparks conversation about pay increase and protesting

By Lexi Meola and Riley Dauber

Web Editor and Social Media Manager and Opinion Editor

On April 10, three unions representing 9,000 faculty and staff at Rutgers University went on strike after increased salary negotiations, improved job security for adjunct faculty, and guaranteed funding for graduate students were gridlocked.

The strike continued for about a week at Rutgers’ three main campuses in New Brunswick, Newark, and Camden, New Jersey. The strike canceled classes weeks before final exams, a time where students are expected to attend class and study to focus on their grades.

Many students were worried about their grades, as the end of the semester tends to be when courses pick up in difficulty due to finals quickly approaching. The strike led to students’ academic lives being put on hold.

According to CNN, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy “[was] not…a fan of a deal ‘that takes it out on the back of the students.’” It is clear that many involved were concerned about the effects the strike would have on the students’ education, but it is necessary to recognize the importance of using one’s voice to demand just treatment and fair pay.

The First Amendment gives people the right to peacefully assemble, so the unions were allowed to go on strike for an increase in pay and job security. They were using their constitutional right to peacefully protest against their unworkable conditions.

A deal was constructed, leading to a suspension of the strike a week after it started on April 17. Classes resumed at all three university locations.

“Our students’ academic success, well-being, and progress is our utmost priority,” Rutgers President Jonathon Holloway said in a statement.

He also explained the deal and what it entails. According to NPR, “The deal includes substantial increases to the salaries of graduate workers and part-time lecturers, and significantly strengthens job security for part-time faculty.”

Despite the creation of a deal and potential negotiations, “unions have described Rutgers University administration as being slow-moving on finishing [the deal] since negotiations resumed in New Brunswick,” according to Politico.

Many union members believe the strike will secure in the near future if the administration does not quicken the negotiation process, meaning the initial strike was not effective enough, or the administration did not take it seriously.

“We could resume the strike…We reserve the right. As workers at Rutgers we didn’t end the strike. We just suspended it. And it was conditional,” Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union president Amy Higer said.

However, according to Politico, many at Rutgers University wish to focus on the written negotiations and wait for the end of the semester to continue any further action.

“Our focus right now is on reaching an agreement beyond the framework agreed on Friday and supporting our students’ continued academic progress,” Rutgers spokesperson Dory Devlin said in a statement.

While it is beneficial to focus support on the student body, the faculty and staff deserves recognition as well. They are asking for a pay increase at a time when teachers and professors are being overworked, overlooked, and underpaid.

The strike at Rutgers University is not the first or most recent example of professors asking for fair pay. According to CNN, “The unions’ action comes just weeks after a massive three-day strike by Los Angeles public school workers demanding increased wages and better working conditions amid a surge of short-term worker strikes nationwide.”

When the pandemic began, many parents or guardians had to take on the role of teacher as well; one would think that the general public would be more understanding of a teacher’s responsibility. However, this unequal pay issue has yet to be resolved.

Educating young people is a large undertaking, so teachers and professors deserve recognition through a pay increase and job security.

While the strike at Rutgers did lead to some positive results, including open discussions about the root of the problems and the formation of a “framework deal,” professors and teachers are still not guaranteed fair pay and other necessary job benefits.

Fortunately, this situation is still ongoing, so it is important to recognize the impact the strike had. Not only were unions able to use their voice and fight for what they believe in, but it led to some middling results and encouraged conversations about how teachers and professors should be treated – and, frankly, paid.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Photo Caption: Professors, students, and members of the general public band together for a strike at Rutgers University on April 10.

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