Faculty union negotiating contract
Members of the Rutgers University faculty are locked in a bargaining session for better working conditions and salaries with the University administration.
Despite negotiations with the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers, few concessions have been considered.
The AAUP-AFT at Rutgers is a large and comprehensive union that represents tenure-track and non-tenure track professors, teaching assistants and graduate assistants, said Sherry Wolf, the contract campaign coordinator for the association.
Faculties at the three Rutgers campuses are included in the union, she said. Currently, the AAUP-AFT is negotiating for better promotions, salaries and work contracts, particularly for non-tenure track faculty members.
“We would like to see, at minimum, every faculty member make at least $55,000 a year,” Wolf said. “This is not an unusual demand for people who have higher education and who are doing an enormous amount of research and instruction.”
The union’s salary request for Rutgers faculty shows current salaries can be compared to those received by faculty at local high schools and community colleges in the surrounding areas, according to a report provided on the AAUP-AFT’s website.
Whereas a full-time assistant instructor with a doctoral degree earns up to $39,000 per year at Rutgers, less than 15 minutes away in Piscataway, a public high school teacher with a master’s degree earns $53,110 per year.
“Students need to understand that 31 percent of the faculty teaching classes have no tenure whatsoever,” Wolf said. “They have no job security and for many of them, their wages are very low.”
She said the predicaments experienced by non-tenured professors are not shared by upper-level administration, particularly those who sit across from the bargaining table with the AAUP-AFT.
“There is not one faculty member, to my knowledge, who is making anything like what President [Robert L.] Barchi is making,” Wolf said.
Despite having job security, tenured professors do not face brighter prospects.
David Hughes, an executive council member of the AAUP-AFT at Rutgers, said Rutgers is slow to come to the bargaining table. The administration has made no decisions regarding salaries and minor concessions amid the work contracts.
Hughes, a tenured professor in the Department of Anthropology, is adamant about upgrading work contracts for non-tenured faculty. As the director of the undergraduate program for his department, he is responsible for hiring assistant instructors.
All of the assistant instructors he hires sign one-year contracts, he said. Because job security is guaranteed for a maximum of two semesters, instructors focus on teaching their courses, not their students.
Hughes said assistant instructors chase the job market because they are constantly looking for other positions at institutions offering better job security and compensation. Recently, an assistant instructor left Rutgers, causing some anthropology courses to be cancelled for the spring semester.
Rutgers has conceded slightly on work contracts, he said. The administration has arranged the deal that assistant instructors now work for 10 years before being offered a three-year contract.
Hughes said the University’s reluctance to make concessions is not a matter of having enough money. Rather, he believes Rutgers is not correctly prioritizing its options.
“The top administration has money before it and makes a conscious choice not to give that money to education but instead to invest it in other things — ancillary, secondary, peripheral kinds of enterprises,” he said.
E. J. Miranda, director of Rutgers Media Relations, commented on the contract.
“We do not conduct labor negotiations in the media,” he said. “The parties are meeting on a regular basis and exchanging proposals. We look forward to a speedy resolution of the issues.”
Hughes is concerned about how current circumstances at Rutgers will affect students who want to pursue doctoral degrees and later, teaching careers at Rutgers.
“The University is giving no premium on people who spent an additional six years or so earning a doctorate,” he said.
According to the same report from the AAUP-AFT’s website, an assistant instructor with a Ph.D. at Rutgers makes $34,112 per year, in comparison to an assistant instructor at Brookdale Community College, who makes $48,090 per year.
“We’re a Ph.D. granting institution,” Hughes said. “This is our product, and we’re basically saying to people who have earned that product [that it is] worth nothing, and [that] you should have just gotten a master’s [degree] and gone to teach around the block at Piscataway.”
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