March 11, 2015
By Marc Bussanich
Newark, NJ—Hundreds of Rutgers University faculty, administrative staff and health care professionals rallied at the Rutgers-Newark campus on Tuesday afternoon to demand that the university’s administration stop stalling and tap into a large reserve to settle new contracts.
They were joined by state and national figures, including the American Federation of Teachers’ Randi Weingarten, New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech, Communications Workers of America's Chris Shelton of District 1 and former ironworker and now New Jersey’s Senate President, Steve Sweeney (D-3).
In the accompanying video, we interviewed Lucye Millerand, president of the Union of Rutgers Administrators Local 1766, an AFL affiliate. She noted that the university has a $700 million reserve that the school could tap into to settle all outstanding labor contracts that include members from the CWA, American Association of University Professors and Health Professionals and Allied Employees Local 5094.
“They just finished a $1 billion fundraising campaign. So it’s not about inability to pay. It’s about the desire to direct those monies the way they want, which includes executive compensation, Big Ten football, risky real estate developments, and putting a lot of money in the market in exotic financial instruments. Our feeling is that a better investment of the money would be to have fair compensation for the people who teach, clean and counsel. All of us,” said Millerand.
A big sticking point in the negotiations is contract language, known as the “subject to” clause, from 2010 that allows Rutgers to back out of giving raises during what the administration deems “difficult financial times.”
University officials said just before the rally that the “subject to” clause is a critical part of any contract and that they will not agree to remove it off the table. Millerand said the union hopes the university backs off the clause.
“There’s this whacky little piece of [language] that has no reason to exist, the ‘subject to’ clause that says the raises shall be subject to adequate funding from the state. But the state of New Jersey pays only 19 percent of Rutgers’ budget; the rest comes from tuition, grants and dining services. There’s a multitude of revenue streams coming into this university,” Millerand said.