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AAUP-AFT faculty union rallies for fairer work contracts at Old Queens

<p>Sherry Wolf, lead organizer for the American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers at Rutgers, protests for fairer work contracts early afternoon Feb. 24 at Old Queens on the College Avenue campus.</p>

Sherry Wolf, lead organizer for the American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers at Rutgers, protests for fairer work contracts early afternoon Feb. 24 at Old Queens on the College Avenue campus.

Faculty, staff and students protested yesterday afternoon at Old Queens to demonstrate resistance against the University administrative board sticking to the “subject to" clause, not considering salary raises for some time and proved solidarity in the University community.

People congregated at the corner of College Avenue and Hamilton Street before marching up and into the doors of Old Queens to protest while bargaining over faculty contracts goes on behind building doors.

“The bargaining is going on, and we’re going to head in in a minute," Sherry Wolf, lead organizer for the American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers, said. "Dick Edwards will be on one side, and our bargaining team is on the other.” 

Joe Richard, an organizer for the American Association of University Professors, American Federation of Teachers, a faculty union, said the AAUP-AFT was staging a protest outside of Old Queens in support of the union’s bargaining team trying to eradicate the "subject to" clause in union contracts.

The "subject to" clause enables management to impose salary freezes based on contingencies or special conditions, Richard said. 

“We want to disrupt business as usual, and make it as difficult as possible for the administration to continue running Rutgers in the way that they do,” Richard said.

Lucye Millerand, president of the Union of Rutgers Administration, American Federation of Teachers, a staff union, said faculty and staff have gathered because Rutgers has a lot of money for fair contracts for its employees who work hard, serve students and conduct research.

“Rutgers has the money for fair contracts with fair wages … Barchi’s contract is not subject to anything, like the state budget,” she said.

Millerand said Rutgers staff has not seen any raises since 2010, and also wishes people like working graduate students and University police could be paid for their hard work.

Instead, many agree the University has money for servicing, executive, sports, and Rutgers has money for 79 employees who make over $250,000 in salary, she said.

“I am pissed off today,” said David Hughes, professor in the Department of Anthropology. “This is a labor emergency.”

Last week, University Chancellor, Richard L. Edwards admitted something that he has been trying to avoid admitting for a number of years, Hughes said. Edwards admitted to an unrestricted reserve where Rutgers hired an account to do a forensic on it.

What Edwards found, Hughes said, was $600 million, which has grown to be $708 million in the past few years.

Having denied that this money existed for a long time, the union would have you believe that there is both a nice collection of $708 million in unrestricted reserve, that the University could, but is unwilling to, put into the faculty’s salary package, Hughes said. 

"(But) Edwards says, such is not the case," Hughes said. "Those funds have already been designated for important academic purposes, including faculty, administrative and other research accounts.”

Hughes posited if there is $708 million designated for Rutgers academia, how and when will it be distributed fairly throughout the University?

“If every faculty member had a research account of $5,000, that would be $15 million,” Hughes said. “That’s good money, but lets multiply it by ten because we believe in faculty research. That’s $150 million. Add $192 million for maintenance, that’s $342 million of the $708 million designated. What’s left over, $366 million lying around this place, undesignated.”

Hughes said the University could do a lot with $300 million dollars such as helping students with debt, paying teaching assistants better and distributing money to all the University libraries.

Hannah Roe, a School Of Arts And Sciences senior, said she came to support the protest with Rutgers Student Union and Rutgers United Students Against Sweatshops because it is “humane and right.”

“We’re here because we really support the faculty and staff here at Rutgers,” she said. “We think it’s bulls--t that they want to put in the ‘subject to’ language (in contracts), (faculty and staff are) overworked, adjunct professors have to work at multiple campuses just to make ends meet.”

Roe said she understands that faculty teaching conditions are student learning conditions.

“Rutgers means a lot to me, and a lot of professors here have changed my life," she said. "And I think it's ridiculous that (they) are treated so disrespectfully here … The students know we are all connected,” Roe said.

Hughes said it is important to ask why the administration is acting as if there is scarcity of University money, when there is plentitude, and why they’re digging their heels in on this. He said he does not understand why they just don’t give us the raises or why they do not rid the ‘subject to’ clause.

“Partly I think it’s for power. They just want to show that they are the boss, he said. “We’re going to show them something different today. We matter. We are the heart and soul of this place, let’s remind them of that.”

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