Rutgers Union Rally Planned Friday for $15 Minimum Wage

Credits: Photo: Rutgers Council of AAUP Chapters

New Brunswick, NJ – On Friday, February 23, student groups, a coalition of Rutgers unions, and representatives from campuses across the nation will hold a rally and march on College Avenue to demand a $15 minimum wage.

The action, initiated by the Rutgers chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and the Rutgers American Association of University Professors – American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT), will call on the Rutgers administration to establish a $15 minimum wage for all campus workers and to bargain in good faith with Rutgers unions representing 20,000 workers at the university.

The action is part of nationally coordinated days of action by working people and allies who will mobilize to support strong unions in the face of the upcoming Supreme Court case Janus v AFSCME.

The rally will be in front of Brower Commons, 145 College Ave., at the heart of campus, at 1 p.m.

“(We will) demand that President Barchi implement a living wage of $15 per hour for all campus workers,” said Chris Pan, a member of Rutgers USAS. “USAS has been running the #15ONCAMPUS campaign for a year and a half, and we are winning. The minimum wage was raised to $11 per hour last December due to our organizing. However, we recognize that $11 is not a living wage and we are continuing to fight for $15.”

The action comes as two concurrent events will be held at Rutgers University addressing the challenges facing campuses and communities and strategies for building stronger unions and stronger community-based alliances.

United Students Against Sweatshop, a national student labor organization fighting for workers’ rights with locals on more than 150 campuses,has planned its national conference at Rutgers from February 23 – 25. Additionally, the “Bargaining for the Common Good in Higher Education Convening,” a national coalition of labor and community groups that develops approaches to transform contract negotiations into broader community fights, will be gathering at Rutgers from February 22 – 25.

“Our Union has adopted a practice known as ‘Bargaining for the Common Good.’ What this means is that unions should fight not only for their members but for the well being of all New Jersey residents,” said Deepa Kumar, Associate Professor of Media Studies and president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT.

“Concretely this means that we have partnered with student groups to first push for a $15 minimum wage for all campus workers and then to advocate for the same across New Jersey,” the professor said.

Rutgers AAUP-AFT has joined together with the 25 other unions representing workers across Rutgers’ campus. The contracts for these nearly 20,000 university workers are set to expire on June 30. Rutgers AAUP-AFT has released a bargaining platform that addresses equity, job security, gender and race equity, affordable healthcare and education, and academic freedom.

The demonstration comes as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments in the Janus v. AFSCME case, and will be a part of nationally coordinated actions by workers and their allies to stand up for strong unions. Rutgers AAUP-AFT and other unions note the influence of powerful conservative think tanks and others, which seeks to undermine the power of unions representing public employees.

“The Koch Brothers and their proxies wish to roll back workers’ rights and the whole union movement that brought laborers into the middle class,” said David Hughes, Professor of Anthropology and vice president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT. “These elites have pushed us to the cliff edge of a Supreme Court decision to undermine unions everywhere.  In response, we need to create, join, and support unions and collective bargaining in every workplace and build stronger ties with our students and communities.”