The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) was founded in 1915 as a professional organization to defend the academic freedom of faculty and Rutgers Professor Stanley Brasefield called to order the first meeting of the Rutgers AAUP Chapter at Rutgers College on November 2, 1922.
Rutgers full-time faculty were among the first in the nation to unionize in 1970, soon after public sector workers in the US won the right to collective bargaining through action. Our first affiliation was and continues to be with the national organization American Association of University Professors (AAUP).
Graduate student employees—Teaching Assistants and Graduate Assistants—were added to the full-time bargaining unit in 1972, making our union one of the few in the nation to do so. The TA-GA Steering Committee within the union allows graduate student workers to come together to articulate their issues and select representatives to serve on the union’s Executive Council and when a bargaining team needs to have TA-GA voices.
A second bargaining unit was created by the Part-Time Lecturer faculty in 1988, when this group of employees voted for collective bargaining rights. They have a separate Collective Agreement (contract) specific to their terms and conditions of employment.
The Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) counselors voted for collective bargaining rights in 1989. They are a small number of full-time staff who have their own separate Collective Agreement, but they are included as members of the bargaining unit with the full-time faculty and the graduate student employees. Non-tenure track faculty are also included in this full-time bargaining unit, including those who are grant-funded and state-funded.
In 2005, the members voted to affiliate with another national organiation, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). We continue to be affiliated with the AAUP. This dual affiliation has faciliated joint organizing campaigns and a stronger faculty united on issues of concern at Rutgers.
In 2011, union members who teach during the winter session and/or summer session ratified the first contract to cover those instructors who teach during these two time periods that are not considered part of the “regular” academic year by RU administration.
Post-doctoral associates voted to unionize in 2011 and they ratified their first contract in February 2012. During the policy debate about restructuring higher education in New Jersey in 2012, we fought hard to keep Rutgers University one united university and won.
After a year-long mid-contract battle led by Non-Tenure Track (NTT) faculty, our union secured a magnificent 43% salary increase in the minimum wage for all NTTs, along with paths to promotion and multi-year contracts up to three years. This battle raised the sights of our members who began to form a department rep structure to prepare for bigger fights to come. We ran this radio ad throughout the state, placing the issue of precarity at Rutgers on the front burner.
Uniting with unions representing our staff, medical, and maintenance worker colleagues, our union led the way in a successful campaign to radically alter the “subject to” language in all of our contracts that had allowed the administration to freeze salaries in 2011. For the first time, we defined the “subject to” clause of Article VIII. If management determines that a fiscal emergency exists, then it can invoke the clause. But it must give notice to the union. It must provide an explanation of fiscal emergency along with supporting financial documentation. The union will have the ability to negotiate during a notice period and to ultimately challenge management’s action in an expedited 90-day arbitration proceeding.
As part of our efforts to energize and organize our members, Rutgers AAUP-AFT launched a series of successful issue campaigns that took on the growing move toward corporate metrics and analytics as means to gauge our members’ work and careers. Employing energetic member-organizer efforts, social media, informational pickets, rallies at the Board of Governors and other public events our members successfully defeated attempts to impose Academic Analytics as an arbitrary measure of our members’ work. We also pushed back along with staff colleagues against reorganization plans that would have robbed our faculty of governance over research and teaching.
Under the leadership of our union’s first-ever woman of color president, Deepa Kumar, our local waged an 18-month-long contract campaign to win a historic contract that includes race and gender equity. On the brink of what would have been Rutgers’ first-ever faculty strike in its 253 years, faculty and grad workers clinched major gains in pay equity, job security and dignity. To read about our contract fight and see images of our pickets and protests, please go to EquitySecurityDignity.org.