“Unions, nationwide, are becoming more aware of addressing their diverse and inclusive faculty and that means additional issues are brought to the table, whether that’s campus safety, parental rights, creating expanded anti-discrimination articles. That’s the movement we’re really in now,” said Charles Toombs, CFA President.

Toombs, who is an Africana Studies professor at San Diego State and a member of CFA’s Bargaining Team, says there has been a major shift in higher education faculty advocacy in California and nationwide, including with Rutgers faculty beginning their historic strike this week.

A group of people at a rally outdoors with a sign.
Students and faculty march at Rutgers University New Brunswick campus in support for fair, new contract. Photo Courtesy: Alan Maass.

CFA Vice President Kevin Wehr, who is also CFA’s Bargaining Team chair and a sociology professor at Sacramento State, says that “with all the work that faculty did throughout the pandemic to support our students and to keep the university running, it was an extraordinary effort. This is not just true in the CSU, but nationwide and certainly around the globe.”

“I really see this as a pivotal moment in higher education,” said Kevin Wehr, CFA Vice President.

“Academic workers are finding that administrators at universities and colleges are just not paying attention to union demands for equity and the well-being of the faculty in all kinds of ways,” said Toombs.

More and more higher education labor unions are taking action to address severe inequities at their workplace and within their contract. University of California academic workers saw a mass mobilization of frontline and online labor support, collective action, and solidarity with their strike last December. Now, the same is happening as workers are striking at Rutgers University. 

As we did in December with our UC siblings, CFA members are supporting Rutgers AAUP-AFT, the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union, and AAUP-Biomedical and Health Sciences of New Jersey union during their strike for a fair contract, along with strikes that resulted in contract agreements for faculty at Temple University, Howard University, and other higher education institutions this year.

This week, more than 9,000 workers representing the three Rutgers faculty unions began their historic strike. This is the first faculty strike at the university in more than 250 years. Faculty want to address severe deficiencies within their contracts, such as equal pay for work performed by adjunct faculty, guaranteed funding, a living wage for graduate workings, job security for all faculty, affordable health insurance, rent freeze for all Rutgers-owned properties, and for the Camden and Newark campuses to be treated the same as the New Brunswick campus.

Wehr says “our fight is their fight, their fight is our fight” as our contract re-opens next month on four articles: Article 20 – Workload, Article 23 – Leave with Pay, Article 31 – Salary for 2023-24 Academic Year, and Article 37 – Health and Safety. Toombs says, “we want our members to be involved in every part of our bargaining campaign.”

“Faculty all over this nation are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore,” said Wehr. “They’re striking over pay. They’re striking over working conditions, over workload. I feel that our faculty need to be paying attention to what goes on there and supporting them as much as possible, because that may be coming toward us sooner rather than later.”

“We know that when we negotiate with CSU management, they are not going to just give us what we want and need. We are going to have to fight for it,” said Toombs. “For our upcoming reopener negotiations, we have some big-ticket items that will be on the table. Of course, that is salary, but it’s also workload in the ways that workload has increased for our faculty members.

“It’s a big fight that we’ll have to get ready for. We all have to be committed to and engage in this collective effort for our students and for us.”

CFA members can support Rutgers workers and fellow union members by signing an open letter to Rutgers president Jonathan Holloway, donating and sharing to their strike fund, sharing your support on social media with the hashtag #RuonStrike, and learning more about the educators’ fights for basic needs and their Common Goods demands.

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