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Rutgers University faculty members are striking over a contract dispute

Strikers march in front of Rutgers University buildings in New Brunswick, N.J., on Monday, April 10, 2023.
Seth Wenig
/
AP
Strikers march in front of Rutgers University buildings in New Brunswick, N.J., on Monday, April 10, 2023.

Updated April 10, 2023 at 5:09 PM ET

Three faculty unions representing around 9,000 workers at Rutgers University, the state university of New Jersey, went on strike Monday morning.

The three labor organizations — the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union, which represents part-time lecturers; the AAUP-AFT, which represents full-time faculty, graduate workers, postdoctoral associates and counselors; and the AAUP-BHSNJ, which represents faculty in the health and sciences departments — announced the strike on Sunday.

It is the first time Rutgers University faculty has ever gone on strike throughout the institution's 250-year history, according to WHYY.

The unions said they had been trying to renegotiate a contract for at least a year but that the university was blocking their attempts.

"The administration doesn't understand that we are determined to fight together for equal pay for equal work, a living wage for all, real job security, race and gender equity, and a fair salary increase," the unions said. "We have no other choice than to go on strike to build a university that truly values its workers and its students."

In a Sunday evening email to the university, Rutgers president Jonathan Holloway said he was disappointed by the unions' decision to go on strike.

"To say that this is deeply disappointing would be an understatement, especially given that just two days ago, both sides agreed in good faith to the appointment of a mediator to help us reach agreements," he said.

Negotiations between the administration and the unions had resulted in "significant and substantial progress," Holloway added, and he said he believed there were "only a few outstanding issues."

Holloway suggested last month that a strike by public employees would be "unlawful" and said he hoped "the courts would not have to be called upon to halt to an unlawful strike."

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Sunday invited both sides to his office in Trenton to negotiate an end to the impasse.

"Rutgers University is one of the nation's premier institutions of higher learning," Murphy said in a tweet. "I am calling the University and union bargaining committees to meet in my office tomorrow to have a productive dialogue."

Rutgers AAUP-AFT General Vice President Todd Wolfson told NPR that those negotiations were expected to begin Monday afternoon.

Strike actions were planned at all three Rutgers campuses in New Brunswick, Newark and Camden. The university told students that classes may be disrupted due to the strike.

The unions said it was the first strike at the university since 1987, when clerical, dining hall, technical and maintenance workers walked out after contract talks broke down.

Rutgers is the largest public university in New Jersey, with more than 67,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ayana Archie
Joe Hernandez