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April 15, 2023

Rutgers strike suspended after unions reach framework for a new deal with the university

Although faculty will return to their jobs after the five-day work stoppage, a full tentative agreement has not been reached

Education Labor
Rutgers strike suspended Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

Rutgers unions representing 9,000 educators, researchers, and clinicians suspended their strike with the university. A framework for a new contract was agreed to although a full tentative deal was not reached.

After a five-day labor stoppage, unions representing more than 9,000 educators, researchers, and clinicians at Rutgers University agreed to the framework for a new deal with the school on Friday. 

Leaders from the unions announced the strike was suspended on Saturday. 

The first strike in the university's 257-year history was mainly over pay increases for faculty members, part-time lecturers, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students. 

While the tentative framework on financial issues in the contract has been settled, this is not a full tentative contract agreement the union clarified on Twitter

"We have not reached a Tentative Agreement for members to vote on. There are open issues that need to be resolved, especially for AAUP-BHSNJ, and we won’t leave our colleagues at RBHS behind. They have been with us all the way. However, the framework shows the vital progress we have made on the core issues we prioritized during this contract campaign," a statement from AAUP-AFT Union said

The framework includes a 43.8% increase in the per-credit salary rate for part-time lecturers during the four-year contract and a 27.9% increase in the minimum salary for postdoctoral fellows, the Inquirer reported. Teacher assistants and graduate students' salaries will increase to $40,000. 

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy engaged with the Union and Rutgers during the strike to help mediate the contract dispute. 

“This fair and amicable conclusion respects the interests of many different stakeholders, upholds New Jersey’s values, and puts an end to a standoff that was disruptive to our educators and students alike,” Murphy said.

Under the new contract, salaries will increase by at least 14% by July 1st, 2025, 6ABC reports. 

"The framework that was reached late last night between Rutgers and its faculty unions provides fair and equitable wages, benefits, and work conditions for our faculty as well as our graduate students and part-time lecturers. Reaching consensus comes as a result of the active and engaged leadership of Governor Murphy, to whom we all are deeply indebted,"  President and University Professor Jonathan Holloway, wrote in a statement

Three of Rutgers 12 unions called for a strike on Monday at the university's campuses in Camden, New Brunswick, and Newark. In March the unions – Rutgers American Association of Professors-American Federation of Teachers, the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union, and AAUP-Biomedical and Health Sciences of New Jersey authorized the strike. 

The unions were seeking a four-year contract retroactive to July 2022, demanding 5% salary increases for full-time workers in the first year, subsequent increases, and cost of living adjustments. They also wanted the minimum salary for graduate students to increase by 37.6% over four years and the minimum salary for postdoctoral fellows to jump to $69,000, with 5% increases each year.

Rutgers offered a 12% salary increase for full-time faculty by 2025, a 20% increase to the per-credit salary rate for part-time lecturers, and a 20% minimum salary increase for postdoctoral fellows.

Staff will return to their jobs Monday, April 17, meaning students will return to class.

"Most important, closure on this framework will allow our 67,000 students to resume their studies and pursue their academic degrees. Nothing we do is as important as living up to the expectations that our students and their families have of us to be fully supportive of them and nurturing of their academic ambitions and dreams," Holloway said.

Once a full tentative agreement is reached members of the unions will vote to ratify the contract by a secret ballot box, the union said.

Rutgers strike comes on the heels of Temple University graduate student workers' 42-day labor stoppage. Temple grad students fought for pay increases, better dependent health care, and better working increase.