Bargaining Update: April 5

At the April 5th bargaining session, the Union submitted three robust and innovative proposals on Diversity and Gender and Race Equity, Salary Equity Corrections, and Graduate Employees. We continue to bargain with a view toward the common good, explaining how these proposals, which directly address our members’ concerns about fair and equitable pay and other employment practices, are also of benefit to our students and the broader communities we serve.  

The Diversity article is brand new. It reflects more than two years of research, carried out by over a dozen faculty members and graduate employees as part of our union’s Gender and Race Equity committee. The resulting report which includes the Union’s climate survey, describes a persistently unequal playing field for women and faculty of color. We presented this data on April 5th, and shared the personal hardships our members experience, to explain why this article is important to faculty and our students.

Professor Walton Johnson, who has been at Rutgers in the Africana Studies department since 1972, was our guest and gave a powerful presentation on the University’s efforts to hire faculty of color in the 1970s. By 1976, the Administration had recruited 176 African-American tenure-track faculty. Since then, Rutgers has regressed, with the number of African American TT faculty falling to 137 in 2017 (or 4.2% of the total TT faculty). We are proposing to revive some of the successful measures of the 1970s, through accurate data-gathering, faculty-driven oversight of hiring and recruitment, face-to-face training for all parties, salary adjustments and enlightened promotion policies that address the structural problems faced by women faculty and faculty of color.

We also presented proposals to expeditiously address existing salary inequities – inequities that go beyond race and gender and effect a wide swath of the faculty. Due to salary compression, many faculty earn less than their peers. Newark and Camden faculty in comparable schools earn less than their New Brunswick counterparts. Women TT and NTT faculty in New Brunswick earn less than their male counter-parts. And NTT faculty are paid substantially less than their TT counterparts. We have proposed one-time corrections to address these inequities.

The proposal we presented on graduate employees envisions a far-reaching reform of the PhD process. The Union is proposing a minimum, five-year funding package, including state health benefits, for all PhD students, who would be recognized as “graduate employees” for that entire duration. Even when not working as TAs or GAs, doctoral scholars are conducting research and contributing to knowledge in the fashion of an assistant professor, and this work should be recognized and compensated.  

Matthew Welsh (Mathematics, NB) and Kathleen Farley (Biological Sciences, Newark) put these points across compellingly. Many of our graduate employees have worked hard over the last few years conducting research to develop a position paper that outlines graduate employee work conditions and challenges. Highlighted in particular are some of the challenges faced by parent and international graduate workers, challenges which the Union is proposing to solve with childcare subsidies and reimbursement for visa expenses.

Matthew and Kathleen also explained that we need to abolish tuition for doctoral scholars. Finally, we put forward an initiative we call EOF+6, which  would offer a six-year doctoral funding package to any admitted graduate of the New Jersey Educational Opportunity Fund which assists first-generation low-income scholars attain their bachelor’s degree.  EOF+6 could substantially enlarge the total population of doctoral recipients of color and diversify the applicant-pool in the Academy.

We are also proposing to rebuild an undergraduate curriculum decimated by two decades of corporate-style management. In 1998, Rutgers employed 1667 TA/GAs to teach 35,705 undergraduate students (a ratio of 1:21).  Twenty years later, Rutgers employs almost the same workforce of 1640 TA/GAs to teach the much larger undergraduate body of 49,861 (a ratio of 1:30). In other words, the Administration has taught these students on the cheap, cutting classes and discussion sections and hiring PTLs, many of them formerly employed as TAs.  To restore the earlier, healthier ratio, of graduate employee instructors to undergraduate students, the University would need to hire 650 more TA/GAs. We are proposing to add 93 graduate employees (TAs) per year over seven years.

So we are in the thick of it. Management has given us three new bargaining dates.  We will reconvene with them on 23 April, 3 May, 15 May, 23 May, 7 June, and 29 June.  If they treat our proposals fairly – and dip into the $800 million of unrestricted reserves – we could yet settle the next contract before this one expires on 1 July.