August 1, 2022
Bargaining Update #4
In our August 1 session, we began with a response to management’s proposals for Article 5 (“Grievance”) and counter to Article 11 (“Professional Development”); the second half of the bargaining session was dedicated to our presentation on Article 6 (“Appointment” ).
- The session began with management expressing discomfort with the amount of members in our open bargaining sessions, despite there being no disruptions or people talking out of turn. After pausing to caucus with our attendees, the team decided to move forward with the session. We believe all our members have a right to sit in on bargaining sessions for the sake of transparency and democracy, and our bylaws say so. Additionally, the board of the PTLFC passed a resolution in support of open bargaining which states that “any member of the PTLFC in good standing may attend any bargaining session between the PTLFC Bargaining Committee and Rutgers Administration.”
- Karen Thompson (New Brunswick, Writing Program) and Damon Fillman (AAUP-AFT Staff Representative, Grievances) presented on the need for arbitration of grievances to be binding (Article 5 – Grievance), since a contract that cannot be enforced is not much of a contract. Damon brought up the need for reasonable timelines for doing due diligence and getting results in a timely fashion, since our members sometimes are not employed beyond the semester and now grievances can run longer than their appointments. He also explained how the system for choosing arbitrators needs to be changed to match what the FT contract prescribes. (Surprisingly, it seemed that the administration and our union were in agreement on this.)
- Dan Sidorick (New Brunswick, Labor Studies) challenged management to take a stand on whether they believe in equal pay for equal work or not, since in their latest proposal, management had struck out “Fractional NTTs” for “PTLs”. Management did not respond on this point.
- Bryan Sacks (Camden, Philosophy and Religion) and Heather Pierce (New Brunswick, Political Science) presented on the need for a centralized process for decisions on Professional Development Fund awards under Article 11 – Professional Development, since right now applications can be rejected by chairs and deans for arbitrary reasons. Currently, there is no standard across all campuses and departments for how the Professional Development Fund is distributed. Also, the union is asking for the fund to be increased to $240,000, while the administration is offering just $85,000.
- We heard several powerful testimonials on the need for better job security from semester to semester, year to year, and beyond. David Letwin (Rutgers Arts Online) in particular noted he has worked for 55 semesters yet he is still only a PTL-1, because only the last 6 semesters count towards his service time because of loopholes regarding seniority in our previous contract.
- Members testified that it is very common not to receive appointment letters, which are contracts for our upcoming semester, until right before the semester starts –or later. As Heather Pierce pointed out, when she had a dispute with her department about her compensation, a few days before the start of the term, she had very little recourse except to refuse to teach. Dr. Godyson Orji (New Brunswick, BSPPP – Dean’s Office) also noted that these late letters can really harm our students because we have no idea whether we are returning to Rutgers or not, which impacts teachers’ ability to make adjustments in between courses. Valerie Smith Stevens (New Brunswick, School of Social Work) testified to her frustrating experience waiting months for an appointment letter, while her emails to her department were ignored or denied.
- Austin Rooney (Camden, Philosophy and Religion) presented anonymous testimonials from our Fall 2021 Contract Survey demonstrating how angry PTLs were that the university treated them as disposable. 91% of respondents said job security was a top concern. The testimonials were about lack of respect, as well as the inability to plan their lives.
- Howie Swerdloff (New Brunswick, Writing Program) explained how teaching Summer/Winter semesters and in other capacities such as NTT, common among PTLs, do not count toward seniority. He described how Article 6 will remove loopholes and tighten up vague language, such as “for educational purposes,” a phrase which has been abused to take away classes from experienced teachers. In the proposed new language, instructors can only be terminated for “just cause” in matters of performance and conduct. Our proposal also makes reappointment “presumptive” after an instructor’s first 3-year appointment, a significant improvement.
Around 45 members and supporters were in attendance at bargaining last night, continuing a strong union presence throughout our summer bargaining sessions. The number of moving testimonials from PTLs detailing how they had been mistreated by management showed a need for the fundamental changes that we are proposing in our new contract. The diversity of our voices showed the strength of our union.
Management lawyers did not give much feedback or reasoning behind their counter proposals. When challenged directly to take a stance on Equal Pay for Equal Work, we only heard crickets. Furthermore, management tried to go off course by opening with their discomfort at the number of members and supporters in the room rather than discussing the real issues. We decided to bring the session back to the real issues that our members want to see addressed in a new contract. Our bargaining team is firmly committed to open, transparent bargaining. We believe our members should have a voice in decisions that deeply impact their lives.
We urge members to join us on Monday, August 15th for our next Bargaining Session. It is important that we have a strong presence by members. That same week, we have our Back to School Town Hall on August 18th at noon. This Town Hall will be an opportunity to discuss our Fractional Appointments proposal to achieve Equal Pay for Equal Work for adjunct faculty.