Did Someone Say “Strike?”

An FAQ for Students

Are my professors definitely going on strike?

Not necessarily, but 94% of members of our unions voted in March 2023 to authorize our elected leadership to call a strike if they deem it necessary to win a fair contract. Our members include full-time faculty, part-time lecturers (or adjunct faculty), graduate workers, medical faculty, postdocs, and Educational Opportunity Fund counselors. We want to avoid a strike, but it’s in management’s hands: if they take our demands seriously and agree to a fair contract, we won’t be forced to strike.

What happens to classes if faculty strike? 

If we strike, we will call on all faculty to cancel classes (even online classes) for the duration of the strike. Click here for a list of work that would stop in the event of a strike. Remember, if we strike we are not striking against our students, but against the administration as we try to make Rutgers better for our students. While striking, we would not be holding course-related office hours, or doing other work related to our courses, but we will be able to answer questions you may have about the strike.

If there is a strike, what will happen to my grades?

We hope the administration will agree to a fair contract long before grades are due. In any case, we are committed to your success and will do whatever is necessary to make sure students are not harmed by a faculty strike against the university. Although we can’t tell you exactly how a strike will unfold, we do know that in recent academic strikes across the country, administrations have figured out ways to ensure that students graduate and receive grades for their classes.

If this isn’t a strike against students, why cancel our classes? And why do so now, when some students are near graduation and others are nearing the end of the school year?

The threat of withholding labor—in this case, by canceling our classes—is one of the most powerful tactics workers have to make management collectively bargain in good faith and treat workers with respect. Appealing to management’s sense of justice and fair play is simply not enough. We would cancel classes only if we believe this will help us get the contract we need and get us all back into the classroom as soon as possible. 

Again, striking is the last thing we want to do. But we’ve been working without a contract since June and the administration is still not taking our core demands seriously. And the truth is, we have to disrupt management’s indifference and delay tactics. The best way to do that is to withhold our labor during the school year. If we wait until summer to strike, management will simply shrug and say, “Who cares?”

You say “Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions,” but what does that even mean? Students face a lot of difficulties, too. What are your unions doing about that? 

Teachers—like all employees—do their best work when they are paid fairly, have job security, and healthcare coverage. We will continue to do our absolute best despite our unfair working conditions, but imagine how much more we could do for students if the university supported us?

Our unions are also supporting student demands for a rent freeze on all Rutgers properties (including dorms), debt forgiveness, support for local community members, and an end to withholding transcripts for students with outstanding student debt. (For more student-centered demands, see Common Good of our Students and Community). We truly believe we are all in this fight together. 

How can we, as students, help? 

Rutgers relies on student tuition, which means you have incredible power to effect change. Because of this, university administrators may try to drive a wedge between you and your professors, especially if they force us into a strike. Here are some things you can do:

  • Join RutgersOne, a student-led coalition of students, faculty, staff, community members, and alumni fighting for better working, living, and learning conditions. 
  • Sign this student petition to President Holloway on Bargaining for the Common Good Demands. 
  • Share this FAQ with a friend.
  • If you support our campaign, join us on the picket line!

GLOSSARY

UNION – A democratic, organized group of workers leveraging their collective power to make their workplace and their jobs better. 

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING –Unionized workers negotiate with their employers about their pay, working conditions, benefits and more. The collective bargaining process can last anywhere from a few months to a few years and ends (ideally) with a union contract. 

STRIKE – When the collective bargaining process stalls, workers may choose to temporarily withhold their labor by striking. A strike is the most powerful tool a union has in its collective bargaining toolkit, but it’s important to note it’s a last resort. 

STRIKE AUTHORIZATION VOTE – Unionized workers cannot call a strike unless a majority of those workers are on board. A strike authorization vote allows the workers to express whether or not they want to go on strike. To be successful, at least 2/3rds of those who vote must vote “yes”. A successful vote, however, does not mean a strike is inevitable. It just means the workers are ready to strike if necessary. 

PICKET LINE – A demonstration where striking workers publicly communicate their dissatisfaction with the collective bargaining process. Workers gather outside the workplace with banners, signs, chanting, marching, music, and more. 

CROSSING A PICKET LINE – Choosing to work while other employees at that workplace are on strike (a person crossing a picket line is called a “scab”). For students, this could look like attending a class taught by a substitute instructor while faculty are on strike. Refusing to cross a picket line is an important way to show solidarity with striking workers. 

PART-TIME LECTURER/ADJUNCT – An adjunct professor is a faculty member who is hired on a semester-to-semester basis, often has no job security or worker benefits (like access to healthcare coverage), and is paid significantly less than full-time faculty who teach the same courses.

BARGAINING FOR THE COMMON GOOD: Community and union members partner around a long-term vision for the structural changes they want to see in their communities and use union bargaining as a critical moment in a broader campaign to win that change. Learn more: https://www.bargainingforthecommongood.org/