Rutgers University has reached a tentative agreement with unions to end a historic strike and resume classes next week, officials said.
After five days of "intensive" bargaining at the Statehouse, the two sides announced the framework for a deal early Saturday morning. It was one of the largest strikes in higher education history and the first at Rutgers since its founding 257 years ago — 10 years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Now, the state school's 67,000 students can expect to return to classes and not worry about the possibility of missing final exams or having graduation put on hold.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who stepped in early this week to force the university and unions to the negotiating table, and Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway called the agreement a "fair and equitable" resolution that raises wages and benefits and improves working conditions for faculty.
The three striking unions said in an email that they secured "profound victories" for students and faculty members ranging from pay increases to teaching conditions.
"This framework sets a new standard. Our members have struck to transform higher education in the State of New Jersey and across this country,” Becky Givan, president of the union Rutgers AAUP-AFT, said in a statement through Murphy's office.
“The framework we have agreed to today sets in place unprecedented gains for contingent workers, graduate students, and our communities. We look forward to working together with the university to realize President Holloway’s vision of a beloved community. We would not have gotten here without our members’ commitment and the support of our governor.”
According to Holloway's office, the agreement would:
Increase salaries across the board for full-time faculty and counselors by at least 14 percent by July 1, 2025.
Provide a 43.8 percent increase in the per-credit salary rate for part-time lecturers over the four years of the contract while strengthening their job security.
Increase the minimum salary for postdoctoral fellows and associates by 27.9 percent over the same contract period.
Provide "substantial enhancements" in wages, plus a commitment to multi-year university support for teaching assistants and graduate assistants. The graduate students, in addition to receiving health care coverage and free tuition and fees, will see their 10-month salaries increase to $40,000 over the course of the contract.
It's unclear how these increases will get paid. Lawmakers are in the process of scrutinizing Murphy's $53.1 billion budget, which includes funding for Rutgers and higher education. Murphy's office declined to say how aspects of the new deal would be financed, saying only that the administration "looks forward" to working with Rutgers during the budget process.
Three unions were on strike: Rutgers AAUP-AFT, which represents full-time faculty, graduate workers, postdoctoral associates and Educational Opportunity Fund counselors; the Rutgers PTLFC-AAUP-AFT, which represents part-time lecturers; and AAUP-BHSNJ, which represents workers at Rutgers’ health sciences schools.
Those unions and other had been working without a new contract for several months. Under the agreement, the contracts would be retroactive to July 1, 2022, according to Rutgers. It must be voted on to ratify the contract.
The unions said there are still some "open issues" to be resolved.
"However, the framework shows the vital progress we have made on the core issues we prioritized during this contract campaign," an email to members and obtained by POLITICO said.
The unions — representing about 9,000 full- and part-time faculty, researchers and graduate students — suspended plans to strike next week. They credited the strike with putting pressure on the school to reach this point.
Givan also credited Murphy with stepping up his efforts and bringing the two sides to the Statehouse on Monday, "which was critical in getting far more movement from the administration in a matter of days than had taken place in months."