In a first public action signaling a strong union coalition at the newly organized Rutgers, more than 200 union members rallied for fair contracts and respect for workers outside the Rutgers Board of Governors meeting in New Brunswick on June 19.
With the merger of UMDNJ and Rutgers last year, 20,000 union members under 29 different union contracts now work at the University, including 2,500 HPAE professionals and registered nurses.
“We’ve had some problems already with the University abiding by our contract,” said Judy Cunha, Co-president of HPAE Local 5094 speaking to the crowd at Winants Hall. “I think it is really important that we all stick together because they do it to each of us.”
“We want Rutgers to respect our experience. We want no layoffs, but right now they are laying off UMDNJ legacy people,” said Kathy Hernandez, Executive Vice President of the Communications Workers of America 1031. “Rutgers has to come to the table so we can negotiate.”
Recently, Rutgers announced layoffs of UMDNJ legacy employees “due to the integration.” A labor Management Committee had been established to address personnel and labor relation issues related to the restructuring. Speaking before the Board of Governors, HPAE Vice President, Bernie Gerard, stated “the intent of the legislation is not to have Rutgers dictate its will to the Labor Coalition but rather to work together to ensure our patients, students and their families receive the services that Rutgers is known for nationally.”
“Gathering here together is one of the ways we are saying that we will not accept Rutgers management stalling tactics,” said Journalism professor Deepa Kumar, secretary of the Rutgers faculty AAUP-AFT local. “They are not bargaining in good faith and we are here to insist that they treat us with respect.”
The coalition of Rutgers Unions has launched a petition drive demanding respect from University President, Robert Barchi, and the Board of Governors and will be coordinating more joint activities as the negotiations heat up.
Portions of this article are reprinted from www.aftnj.org.