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Rutgers pacts with five labor unions; students demand minimum wage hike

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Rutgers University employees protest for a new contract outside the Rutgers Board of Governors meeting at Winants Hall on the Rutgers-New Brunswick campus.
Rutgers University employees protest for a new contract outside the Rutgers Board of Governors meeting at Winants Hall on the Rutgers-New Brunswick campus. - ()

Rutgers University said Thursday it had reached agreements and ratified contracts with five of its 24 labor unions.

Meanwhile, dozens of students and employees interrupted a regularly scheduled board of governors meeting on the New Brunswick campus for more than five minutes, loudly singing songs to the tune of Christmas carols while asking Rutgers President Robert Barchi to pay at least $15 per hour to all Rutgers employees. The students dropped pretend coal in the direction of Barchi, saying that was his Christmas gift.

Police officers had to stand guard to prevent the protestors from reaching the governors. The demonstration comes more than five months after Rutgers’ unionized employees began working without contracts; their previous pacts expired June 30.

Rutgers spokeswoman Dory Devlin said negotiations are ongoing.

“The current collective negotiations agreements continue in effect until new agreements are negotiated,” Devlin said via email during the meeting. “All issues related to employee contracts will be discussed at the negotiating table with the appropriate bargaining team representatives from the administration and the unions."

Prior to the meeting the Rutgers administration reached agreements and ratified contracts with Teamsters Local 97 and Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 153 through 2022.

These contracts provide for wage enhancements, alignment and streamlining of Family Medical Leave Act leaves and alignment of sick and bereavement leaves. The contracts call for wage of increases of 3 percent a year for the first three years and 2.5 percent in the fourth.

Rutgers also reached an agreement with the police superiors union FOP Local 164 retroactively for the years 2014 to 2019. This agreement merged the two police superior unions and consolidated the contractual provisions for the former units and provided wage enhancements for the employees.

Finally, Rutgers reached an agreement with International Union of Operating Engineers Local 68. If ratified, it will cover the years 2018 to 2022.

Devlin said the negotiations continue with the other unions.

“The university has conducted and scheduled a combined 120 sessions with its staff unions since May 2017 and held 45 sessions with academic unions since March 2018,” Devlin said. “Several additional sessions are scheduled.”

Several graduate students and a professor asked the administration to engage in good-faith negotiations with union representatives.

David Hughes, vice president of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT faculty union and a professor of anthropology, presented a packet of papers that he said contained the support of about 1,000 Rutgers stakeholders. He accused the governors of refusing to discuss job security and equity.

“You can start by giving the faculty who work here more than the 8 percent [salary increases] over five years,” Hughes said. “You can take faculty in Camden and Newark and raise their salaries. It is a real shame that you do not seem to understand how working people live.”

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David Hutter

David Hutter


David Hutter grew up in Darien, Conn., and covers higher education, transportation and manufacturing for NJBIZ. He can be reached at dhutter@njbiz.com.

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