The following communication was sent to all union members on April 9, 2023.
Contents below: 1) Where to Go First for Answers; 2) Join the Picket Line!; 3) Nightly Updates from the Table and the Picket Line; 4) Stay in Touch throughout the Day; 5) Communicating with Our Students; 6) Don’t Help the Administration Spy on Us; 7) Know Your Rights: Injunction Threats and Our Right to Strike; 8) Donate to the Strike Fund
Tonight, the leadership bodies of our three unions met jointly and voted to begin a strike to achieve a fair contract for ALL of us. Tomorrow at 9 a.m., we ask you to join the picket lines and refuse to conduct teaching, research, and other business as usual at Rutgers. By exercising our right to withhold our labor, we will prove to the administration that WE are the university.
We have been bargaining for a new contract for nearly a year. This entire time, the administration has delayed and obstructed our efforts to reach an agreement. Our unions and the administration are still far apart on core demands, especially those affecting our most vulnerable colleagues. The administration doesn’t understand that we are determined to fight together for equal pay for equal work, a living wage for all, real job security, race and gender equity, and a fair salary increase. We have no other choice than to go on strike to build a university that truly values its workers and its students.
We know we will face threats from the administration—of retaliation against individuals for participating in the strike or seeking a judge’s injunction against our actions. No matter what, remember: our best defense will always be to remain united and act together. As the old labor movement slogan (borrowed from the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley) goes: “We are many—they are few.” If you have concerns and fears, raise them on the picket line, and we’ll confront them together. We will keep you updated about how to deal with any threats; see below for more information.
Members of all of our unions are gathering for a cross-union town hall meeting starting right now to discuss where we stand in bargaining and plan for tomorrow’s picket line. Click here to register for the Zoom link. We expect to exceed the 1,000-person Zoom capacity, so if you can’t get into the Zoom, click here to watch a livestream on our union YouTube channel.
This will be a long email, but we urge you to read it through to the end; it contains a lot of important information.
1. Where to Go First for Answers
Here are some important strike resources; start with these if you have questions:
- 2023 Strike Manual – An extensive FAQ ranging from picket line conduct and communicating with students to how to respond to administration threats.
- Don’t Help Management Spy on Us – What to do if the administration tries to get us to report who’s on strike
- Know Your Rights: Injunction Threats and Your Right to Strike – Our response to President Holloway’s threat to ask for an injunction against us
- Bargaining Status at a Glance – An up-to-date chart showing our proposals and management’s response (or lack of one)
2. Join the Picket Line!
If you’ve already signed up for picket line shifts, you may have been contacted by a picket captain and added to the What’sApp groups we will use for organizing on each campus. If you haven’t signed up or haven’t been contacted, come down to the main picket line as soon as you can and get plugged in to the strike. Please plan on coming to the picket line as often as you can, not just during times when you would normally be on campus. Our picket lines will be safe and family-friendly—bring your kids. We want to maximize participation and win our demands!
Picket shifts: Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–1 p.m. and 1 p.m.–5 p.m. Sign up for shifts here.
- College Ave: 43 College Ave., outside Scott Hall (smaller pickets may be set up in front of Winants, Academic Building, and SCI)
- Civic Square Building: Mason Gross/Bloustein, 33 Livingston Ave, New Brunswick
- Cook/Douglass: corner of George and Chapel Dr./Nichol Rd
- Livingston: Livingston Student Center, 84 Joyce Kilmer Ave, Piscataway
- Busch: outside Campus Center, 604 Bartholomew Rd, Piscataway, bus stop side
- Main large rally site: Voorhees Mall
Hourly shifts: Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Sign up for shifts here.
- Plaza in front of Robeson Campus Center, 350 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
- Plaza outside Law School, between University and Washington
Picket shifts: Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–1 p.m. and 1 p.m.–5 p.m. Sign up for shifts here.
- Outside Campus Center
If you are physically unable to be present on our campus picket lines, fill out this form to sign up for important remote roles you can play.
3. Nightly Updates from the Table and the Picket Line
We will be organizing Zoom meetings every night of the strike at 8 p.m. to keep everyone informed about bargaining, respond to administration threats, and plan for the next day’s actions. Click here to register for the Zoom link. We expect to exceed the 1,000-person Zoom capacity at times, so if you can’t get into the Zoom, click here to watch a livestream on our union YouTube channel.
4. Stay in Touch throughout the Day
The best way to stay updated on the strike is at the picket line. Organizers on each campus are using What’sApp groups to stay in touch and pass on up-to-the-minute information, so be sure you’re signed up. We’ll continue to send union emails each morning with critical information on bargaining and strike organization. But remember, the best way to know what’s going on is to talk to your colleagues on the line!
5. Communicate with Our Students
We want to make sure our students know that our strike is a fight for them, too. Ask them to support the strike and join us on the picket line. You should post a message on your Canvas explaining that it won’t be pulled down, but you won’t be updating it. Click here for a suggested message. If you want to create an email auto-response on your Rutgers.edu account, we have suggested text here—though take note that anyone without job security should be aware that the university could use this information to tell if you are on strike.
6. Don’t Help the Administration Spy on Us
We’ve learned that management may attempt to enlist department Chairs, Undergraduate Directors, department staff, and others to report striking workers. The only plausible reason for this would be to try to withhold pay, cancel our health insurance, hold us in contempt of a possible court order, or otherwise retaliate against us. The goal of such action would be to divide us and create hostility among members, breaking down our solidarity and undermining the strike.
No one should comply with any attempt by the central administration to gather information about who is on strike. We particularly make this request of Chairs, Undergraduate Directors, and our staff colleagues. This is not a neutral act; it is active strike-breaking. We think it will be very difficult for the administration to gather information about our strike without the cooperation of faculty or staff. So please don’t cooperate!
The administration may use an opt-in strategy. They may ask people to report who is showing up to work or ask individual workers to “sign-in” somewhere. Do not do this! It is effectively the same thing as reporting who is on strike.
Click here to learn more about how we advise members to respond to this threat.
7. Know Your Rights: Injunction Threats and Our Right to Strike
President Holloway has stated that the administration will quickly petition a court for an injunction when we go on strike. Please be advised that if this happens, it would signal the start, and not the end, of a legal process. We will be in frequent contact with you to make sure your questions are answered.
As we explain in our Strike FAQ, the NJ Constitution and statutes are silent about whether strikes by public-sector workers are legal. In some instances, courts have issued injunctions against striking public employees. If the administration takes us to court, our lawyers will oppose the granting of such an injunction. If a judge should grant one, and our unions decide to continue the strike, the university would have to return to court to seek penalties for violation of the injunction. This process could take several days.
If an injunction is issued, it is possible that all of us will receive communications from the university, telling us to return to work. However, you should not be intimidated and should wait for guidance from union leadership about any legal actions.
The last time there was a strike at Rutgers—by AFSCME locals in 1987—President Edward J. Bloustein sought an injunction, but it was extremely limited in scope; the injunction wasn’t against the strike itself but sought lesser restrictions, such as controlling the locations of picket lines. We hope that President Holloway will not seek an injunction at all. However, if he does, we call on him to follow in the footsteps of President Bloustein. As a scholar of labor history, he should know not to act in any way that would prevent us from exercising the fundamental right of withholding our labor.
Click here to read more about how we are responding to the administration’s injunction threat.
8. Donate to the Strike Fund
Our unions have established a merged strike fund, named the Rutgers Strike & Solidarity Fund, with the goal of supporting members in the event of a strike. We hope those of you who can best afford to give will do so generously to support your colleagues. Click here to donate, and click here for an FAQ about the fund (see part 4!).
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