AFT comes to a tentative contract agreement with the state after rally

"They're trying to stretch our negotiations out way too long. And we're tired of waiting,” said Hough at the rally last Thursday. “We have what we think is a good endpoint. And they just keep giving us low offer after a little offer.” - Multimedia Editor / Drew Peltzman

Calls for action have been made to the state of New Jersey by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Union who are fighting for fair pay, better benefits, and a brand new contract. Rowan’s AFT Union is known as the AFT Local 2373

On Nov. 2, 2023, the AFT Local 2373 held a rally at Robinson Hall Circle from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., in an effort to promote solidarity and advocate for themselves.

The Statewide Council of the American Federation of Teachers announced Tuesday that tentative agreements have been reached with the state. This includes the full-time contract and adjunct contract for the next four years. AFT members still need to vote on whether or not to ratify the contract. The contract provides for a 3.5% raise each year through 2027, among other items that were not in place by the time the rally occurred. 

The contract is split into three parts: one for full-time professionals, coaches, and librarians, another for lecturers, and another for adjuncts. Each group bargains separately.   

“Our salaries have basically been fixed for over a year and we’re not getting any increases until we get a new contract. And the state and the college presidents are playing games. They’re trying to stretch our negotiations out way too long. And we’re tired of waiting,” said Hough at the rally last Thursday. “We have what we think is a good endpoint. And they just keep giving us low offer after low offer.”

Currently, these professors and teachers are working without a contract agreement, because the contract expired months ago, on June 30, 2023. 

The Whit contacted Joe Cardona and Henry Oh for a response from the university on these issues. According to Oh and Cardona, the university will not comment on these negotiations because the AFT contract is negotiated with the state and the union.

The first part of the contract, which explains the pay wages and benefits for full-time professors, coaches, and librarians, is currently on hold as the state has not approved a contract renewal. The state believes they are asking for more pay than what they need. The union is trying to ensure that pay keeps up with inflation.  

“They keep coming back with less than 3%. And the last one on Friday, they came back with 3%. Across the board, which is overall 2% over the life of the contract– less than they gave another union. They know it, we know it, we feel it’s unfair,” Hough said at the rally.

The membership chair of the AFT Local 2373, Trevor Smith, states how he feels about employees getting paid fairly. 

“We feel like all employees on campus deserve to have fair contracts and get fairly compensated for their work… We want to encourage productive negotiations with the state,” said Smith at the rally.

President of the AFT Local 2373, Joseph Basso, who is a tenured professor at Rowan University, believes the contract is “a horrible economic proposal right now and we are not accepting it. So right now, we are still battling it.” 

Tenured professors at Rowan get paid more than lecturers and adjuncts because when a professor is tenured, they are expected to do research and academic papers. Out of all the faculty at the local AFT Union, tenured professors are the most protected. However, this does not mean they are getting compensated fairly. 

The second part of the contract is for lecturers, and they are fighting diligently for better pay and they want the same title as a professor. Many lecturers are getting paid a median salary of $67,000, which Hough claims is low. 

“Most lecturers have been here for five years and the new agreement locally will give them an average bump of around $1,500,” Vice President Hough said. “So this change from lecturers to teaching professors will give them more lifetime earning potential equal to their value in the classroom.” 

Currently, tenured professors make $20,000 to $80,000 more than lecturers. Lecturers believe that the gap is too big for educators who spend similar hours teaching and providing students with the skills they need for their future careers. 

Not only do they receive less pay and experience an abundance of work hours, but they also have to reapply for their position at Rowan every year. Lecturers do not get protected by Rowan, so if they fail to get their position the next year, they are not guaranteed a job at Rowan University. This is why they are fighting to become full-time professors so that they get their job security. 

Kathryn Quigley, who is the secretary and Media Coordinator for the AFT Local 2373, believes that lecturers should continue fighting. 

“We’re a state school and a union helps protect the teachers and professors. A union makes sure that everyone is paid fairly and gets the same benefits. We are negotiating with the council for more pay and better health benefits,” Quigley said. “Rowan is in good financial shape, so we deserve to be paid and compensated fairly.”

Adjuncts make the least out of everyone involved. They also have virtually no job security and are dependent on contracts. The university only offers them a job if there are classes available to teach, if they come back next semester and there are no classes to teach, they are let go. 

Many working adjuncts are unsure if they’ll have a job next year, which is why the AFT Union will continue to negotiate a fair contract with the state until they agree to give professors and teachers across New Jersey better pay. With the rally held last Thursday, the AFT Local 2373 will continue to show solidarity with all faculty and teaching staff at Rowan; they do not believe in backing down without a win. 

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