The Union of Rutgers Administrators (URA-AFT) Local 1766, represents 2,500 administrative staff at Rutgers University, including staff in every academic department, business, admissions and financial aid office, dining hall, and across Rutgers housing. We are integral to student and faculty lives at Rutgers University.
Our members voted in last night’s membership meeting to launch a strike pledge drive to determine whether our membership is ready to take a strike authorization vote. This strike pledge will soon be initiated, and its results will help determine whether or not URA takes a strike authorization vote.
The URA has been bargaining for the past 10 months, but has not made much progress on many of our key priorities, including fair salary increases, telework, career pathways, and equity for our essential workers. Our members’ commitment towards a strike pledge is representative of our willingness to escalate to win a fair contract.
We are actively bargaining for a fair contract and need the majority of our members to participate in our escalating actions to achieve that ultimate goal. URA members have not authorized a strike action. Therefore, our union has not committed to a sympathy strike if the AAUP decides to take a strike action.
We are supportive of our sibling unions’ actions. This includes walking their picket lines and attending rallies outside of our work hours, including before, after, and during our unpaid lunch time.
For members who work in academic departments, the best way to support the AAUP work stoppage, is working to rule: do not take on any of your AAUP colleagues’ work outside of your regular duties and responsibilities. Their absence must be felt by Rutgers in order for their strike to be effective.
Here are the articles in the URA-Rutgers Agreement that might be used to provide protection for URA members who take individual action to honor picket lines in the event of an AAUP strike.
Article 3 – Administrative Leave
Administrative leave shall be granted by Rutgers University upon request of the employee and shall be scheduled in advance provided the request can be granted without interference with the proper discharge of the work in the work unit involved. Requests for such leave shall not be unreasonably denied. Administrative leave may be used for personal business, including emergencies and religious observances.
Article 22 – Leave of Absence for Personal Reasons
If an employee is confronted with a situation of unusual circumstances, a request for a leave of absence without salary for personal reasons will be considered by the university. The maximum number of days available for such a leave is thirty (30) days in a fiscal year. A request for such a leave must be submitted in writing to the administrative supervisor or department head concerned. Such leave request shall not be unreasonably denied.
There is not a lot of history on this article. It is usually used with substantial advance notice. It is possible that some supervisors will agree to unpaid leave for purposes of not crossing a picket line, and equally likely that others will not, and that unit HR administrators will resist the granting of leave for personal reasons.
Article 44 – Sick Leave
April 3, 2023
Sick leave is defined as a necessary period of absence because of the employee’s own illness or for exposure of the employee to contagious disease.
It is not normally necessary to submit a health care provider’s note unless the department has previously told the employee that there are concerns with misuse of sick time.
Employees who wish to use sick time for a scheduled medical visit, however, may be asked to provide proof of their appointment:
Sick leave may also be used for pre-planned medical and dental appointments provided that the employee submits a request as soon as is practical with the expectation that the employee shall provide at least one week’s notice if possible.
Rutgers may deny sick pay or take disciplinary action if there is evidence that an employee abused sick time, and was not really sick or attending a sick family member.
Employees are expected to notify their supervisor preferably by telephone at least fifteen (15) minutes before their scheduled start time on the work day on which sick leave is used and to keep the supervisor adequately informed should the absence extend beyond one day.
Article 54 – Vacation
This article references University Policy 60.3.10, which states that vacation must be pre- approved by the department, and is subject to the department’s scheduling needs.
Article 59 – Telecommuting
For employees who have remote work agreements under the 2018-2022 contract, not the FlexWork@RU Pilot Program, if the department were to revoke or modify the individual’s telecommuting agreement as a result of a faculty job action, we would have an ability to challenge that action.
Since remote work does not involve any work stoppage, departments may be willing to extend or flex WFH schedules for employees who don’t want to “cross a picket line” physically. However, since the current remote work temporary policy is not negotiated, it is hard to predict how it will be used.
Article 19 – Just Cause/Discipline
No employee shall be discharged, suspended, disciplined or receive a deficiency downgrade except for just cause.
Article 14 – Grievance Procedure
If members call out of work for a day or multiple days due to an AAUP strike, we should assume that some or all will receive disciplinary action. We can file grievances against any such action and argue that there is no ‘just cause’. Those will be fact-sensitive cases – is there a prior disciplinary record? Etc. If there is a university or campus-wide directive from management that results in discipline, we would try to consolidate those cases, negotiate withdrawal of the action, or defend the employees in a discipline arbitration.
Whatever members decide about attending work on a day if AAUP strikes, they should be sure to inform the department prior to the start of work. A no-call, no-show is likely to result in discipline immediately, and will be much harder to mitigate, than, say an allegation that a member falsely used a sick day, or called out for an emergency which the department says was not an emergency.
We don’t know if, when, or for how long any strike would be; we can’t predict the severity of management’s reaction to our members staying out. And we don’t know what AAUP will do if Rutgers management obtains an injunction to stop a strike. We certainly do not want our members hauled into court. It seems that would be extreme, but we know that Rutgers management considers themselves untouchable.
We know that a fair contract is essential for our membership. As management continues to hold out on salary increases, with disrespectful offers like 2% annual raises as inflation rates remain well above 7%, we recently learned that non-aligned employees, or “MPSC’s” (Managerial, Professional, Supervisory and Confidential) at Rutgers University may be scheduled to receive a 3% raise retroactive to July 1, 2022. This has not been officially confirmed yet.
We know some of the highest-paid employees at our university are included in the category of MPSC, including Deans and Directors. A 3% raise for these managers amounts to much more than it would for our members, who often make below the mid-range of our salary grade.
We know our members deserve more. A fair raise for all is essential given high levels of inflation, increased housing costs and living expenses in New Jersey, additional out-of-pocket health insurance costs, and the other financial pressures on our members.
We are holding firm on our demands for more than 3% across-the-board raises. We are fighting for longevity raises for longtime members, meaningful across-the-board raises, and a salary package that provides an increase above the inflation rate so that we can work with dignity.
Historically, when we fight for better salary improvements all members of the University community, including non-aligned administrators like our immediate supervisors, benefit. Unions make Rutgers better.
Our power lies in collective action. Join us Tuesday, February 28 at noon for the Board of Governors Rally at Newark or parallel actions at The Yard in New Brunswick or the Camden Campus Center.
Our union is negotiating for these critical bargaining demands:
Raises and longevity pay;
Telework with fairness for non-remote staff;
Reduce employee’s portion of health insurance premiums; and,
Well-defined career paths for staff.
A Union escalation plan guides members in putting pressure on the employer to secure a fair, negotiated contract.
Actions are taken on a schedule that escalates pressure on management in various ways to express that we deserve a fair contract and to show what we are worth.
Our contract campaign is based on the following principles:
Majority Membership Decision-making that leads to actions performed by a largerand larger number of members.
Concerted Action for Healthy Boundaries: adhering to work-to-rule by doing the jobs we are paid for, and no more: o No additional responsibilities without additional compensation; o Arriving on-time, but not early; o Taking a full lunch break away from the desk; o Leaving on-time, but not late.
Workplace Actions: visibility and protest actions that carry our message to management and the public. We will build greater member participation and commitment until we approve a fair contract.
Staff-centered Timeline and Tactics which respect our labor coalition partners.
Goals and Principles approved February 13, 2023 General Membership Meeting
Steward/Building Rep Training 1:00 to 4:00 p.m: A steward-building rep training on membership conversations and contract enforcement. Stewards and building reps will learn how to converse with their colleagues on union related topics including our contractual protections on excessive workload.
Mental Health Peer Promoter Training 1:00 to 4:00 p.m: All members are invited to train as mental health peer promoters. Mental health and wellness in the workplace affect us all. Learn skills to use and share.
When you commit to attend either of these trainings, we will provide release time so you don’t have to use your own paid time off. Provide your supervisor’s name and email on the RSVP to expedite processing.
Dec 12 Holiday Social at Pino’s, 13 N 4th Ave. Highland Park 4:30 to 7:00 p.m.: Then, join our Holiday Social on Monday, December 12, from 4:30 to 7:00 p.m., at Pino’s Lounge. Food, drinks, and time to have some joyful conversations as we look forward to a much-deserved holiday break. All members are welcome.
Our communications committee has created this easy one page document so you know what we are fighting for in our successor contract. In order to achieve a strong contract, we must all step in to fight for it together.
URA members have been working for 161 days without a contract as of Dec. 6. Despite this, our members have continued to provide invaluable services to this institution, ensuring that our students are admitted, housed, fed, counseled, and guided towards graduation. Management has continued this pattern of surface bargaining even as we, like other workers at this university, experience record levels of inflation, confront staffing shortages that increase our members’ workloads, and will soon be burdened with rising healthcare costs that Rutgers has done nothing to alleviate. Please sign on to tell Tell Rutgers Board of Governors to direct management to bargain a fair contract.
We have been working without a contract since July 1, 2022. We are doing more, but our pay doesn’t go as far as even a year ago. We offer serious, important proposals when we bargain. Management’s response? NO, or even worse, no response.
It is time the Board of Governors hear our frustration. Gather with staff, faculty and students on December 6 at 11:30am in New Brunswick to march from Voorhees Mall to rally at Winants Hall and in Newark outside the Robeson Campus Center.We are only as strong as we are together and will make change collectively.