March 20, 2023
Rutgers Adjunct Union Board member Kevin Keogan, who teaches in the Newark Sociology/Anthropology department , wrote these notes on the session this past Monday. We invite members to be notetakers at future sessions.
Monday’s bargaining session was focused on Evaluations (Article 12) and Appointments (Article 6). This was a small, combined session (FT/Grad/Postdoc and PTLs). Starting this week, sessions will be more frequent and longer in length. This meeting was supposed to start at 11 AM, but management continues to show up late for sessions and often requests extensive breaks from actual bargaining. Although the quantity of bargaining sessions has increased, the quality of these meetings has not changed much, if at all. Management continues to offer negligible changes in their counter proposals and seems unwilling to address any of our core demands–equal pay for equal work, job security, and healthcare. This is despite our recent overwhelming “YES” vote to authorize a strike if management continues to drag its heels.
Newark VP Caitlin Dudek started by explaining substantive changes to the Evaluations article. The main idea was to offer an option to SIRS (current student evaluations) as the only form of evaluation. Many PTLs feel that SIRS are not an adequate measure of teaching effectiveness and studies have shown that they are biased. The PTL proposal calls for an optional, more holistic form of evaluation: requesting an in-class, peer review from a fellow instructor chosen by the head of the department. This is simply an option for PTLs that believe SIRS is not a valid measure of the instructor’s abilities. Furthermore, peer reviews can provide detailed feedback that can help improve instruction and avoid issues of vulnerability and potential bias.
Management seemed confused with the changes to the Evaluations article, and asked specifically why any review would not be conducted by someone in a supervisory role.
VP Bryan Sacks presented Article 6 on Appointments, giving a detailed overview of how appointments vary based on length of service. Appointments should be understood in relation to the advancement article. More senior PTLs earn longer appointments and guarantees for the same amount of courses as in previous semesters. The main goals of the article are a systematic way of providing PTLs with job security, while also promoting academic freedom as well as continuity for students.
The article also addresses timeliness of appointment letters, with earlier deadlines for notification so that PTLs will be better able to plan their lives. PTLs with seniority are to be given “priority” when new FT teaching positions are created (e.g., opportunity to interview for the position). New language in this proposal specifies that PTLs under longer-term contracts must be provided with “academically appropriate” alternate forms of work in the unlikely event that sufficient course work is not available. This is meant to ensure that PTLs do not lose income during the term of their appointment. Finally, the article specifies that PTLs should only be terminated for “just cause”, while reappointment should be presumed for the more senior unit members.
Management abruptly leaves for another meeting at this point, after briefly questioning PTL priority of appointment to newly created FT positions, citing the need for advertisement of open positions and extensive interviews.
Before management returns from their 90+ minute absence, the various units receive new salary counter offers from management. While management declares that these salary increases indicate “big movement” that has narrowed the difference “considerably,” everyone on the union side of the table views these salary counters as profoundly lacking, especially for PTLs, Graduate students and Postdocs.
PTL Secretary Howie Swedloff comments that these paltry salary increases do not address our demand for equal pay and thus will not be taken seriously by our members. Howie restates our willingness to align our contracts with NTTs. PTL board member David Letwin agrees that the increases are inadequate as PTLs will continue earning substantially less than what NTTs make for teaching the same courses.
The FT/Grad unit President, Rebecca Givan, expressed solidarity with PTLs, Grads and Postdocs, declaring that there is not much to say unless management makes more significant counters that create a more equitable environment for the entire Rutgers community.
Management reiterated their stance that NTTs and PTLs do not do the same work and promptly left the room.
Management appears to be more serious about bargaining in terms of the frequency and length of bargaining sessions and continues to show a willingness to cooperate on some articles/issues (e.g., parking on campus and its relation to the professed goal of carbon neutrality by 2030).
Solidarity remains strong among the bargaining units, with the lack of legitimate counters on core issues increasing collective resolve.
No real movement on any of our core demands, despite our hope that the strike authorization would improve the bargaining dynamic. An actual strike seems an increasingly likely imperative.
Show your solidarity by attending the cross-union, all-member town hall meeting on Friday, March 24, at 4 p.m. (click here to get the Zoom link), where we will be answering questions about a possible strike and discussing the way forward to a fair contract.
Come to a training session on building strong, lively, and safe picket lines. Click here to sign up for a one-hour session being held via Zoom at numerous times over the coming two weeks. This is your opportunity to learn what a strike will look like and volunteer for various roles.
Help counter President Hollaway’s misleading message to our undergraduate students meant to divide us. In response, we ask you to please share our Student Strike FAQ to confront his misinformation with the facts.