Takeaways from Wednesday’s Special Joint Bargaining Session Devoted to Our Merger
More than four dozen PTLs, full-time faculty, and grad workers attended the meeting, which was scheduled to discuss the merger of the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union, the Full-time/Grad Union (Rutgers AAUP-AFT), and the medical sciences faculty union (BHSNJ-AAUP-AFT).
The administration expressed the following:
1. The Administration’s bargaining team: University lawyers questioned whether the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union demonstrated an adequate “show of interest” in merging the unions. The lawyers argued that some members of the bargaining units may have signed their cards with an unclear idea of what they were doing because of what they called “confusing” language, specifically referencing the FAQ page on the BHSNJ’s “One Faculty” campaign website. (BHSNJ is the medical faculty unit that is also seeking to merge with the full-time/grads)
Our response: This is a misrepresentation of the language in the FAQ, which was intended to reflect the steps needed for the units to become one union (eg: voting on bylaws, which is a secondary, internal democratic process once the merger is recognized). The university’s only response to this point was that they read the FAQ “differently.”
2. Rutgers’ bargaining team: Rutgers lawyers said there would be “conflicts of interest” within a merged bargaining unit because of the supervisory nature of the full-time faculty-PTL relationship.
Our response: This is a fallacious claim. The Rutgers AAUP-AFT (the full-time faculty/grad union) already represents a wide variety of interests, including supervisory relationships (Grad workers, NTTs, e.g.). There also are several bargaining units at Rutgers with members that have “supervisory relationships” including the Summer/Winter bargaining unit.
3. Rutgers’ bargaining team: Lawyers said merging would prolong contract negotiations, because different constituencies would have different goals, which would result in disagreements and delays.
Our response: Becky Givan, president of the FT/Grad union, said her union has a 50-year history of following a shared grievance model in contract negotiations. If Rutgers was really concerned about the speed and efficiency of negotiations, why did it wait for over a month before responding to our request for bargaining dates? And why insist on bargaining with three faculty unions, with overlapping interests, rather than one? Further, if efficiency is its concern, it should schedule more and longer bargaining sessions. We are a week away from the expiration of our contract, and it has scheduled NO additional sessions.The concerns presented by the administration were paternalistic, implying they know better than our members what is best for us.
4. Rutgers’ bargaining team: The merger process is a legal one and should be turned over to the Public Employee Relations Commission (PERC), the state agency that oversees public worker unions.
Our response: Now that we’ve presented him with over 1,100 signed cards, President Holloway can approve the merger at any time. Telling us to go through PERC indicates that the university is opposed to the merger and intends to use the bureaucratic process to stall. If the university was really concerned about efficiency (see number 3 above) it would recommend that President Holloway accept the merger ASAP.
We had numbers. Fifty members and staff from three unions participated in our joint bargaining session, many using new “One Faculty Now” Zoom backgrounds. We forced management to articulate its rationales for resisting the merger. Our negotiators presented a united front as we responded to each concern.
Rutgers’ lawyers said they would schedule new bargaining sessions soon, but have not provided us with any dates. They continue to ignore the democratic will of more than 1,100 PTLS who signed cards in favor of merging.
We will keep members updated if the administration provides us with additional bargaining dates. In the meantime, we are planning an important Town Hall in mid-August to discuss our transformative proposal for fractional pay and long-term contracts. Stay tuned for announcements about summer PTL happy hours and other events to keep building our power for the fight ahead.