By Paul Mullin
Hundreds of members of the Rider faculty union voted Tuesday to authorize a strike, if necessary, to pressure the administration to settle on a new contract.
A strike would not occur before Oct. 1, and may not occur at all, union officers said.
A press release issued by the Rider chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) Tuesday afternoon said that the union authorized its negotiators and executive committee “to take whatever action they deem necessary, up to and including a strike, to achieve a fair and equitable contract.”
“There was an almost unanimous show of hands,” said the AAUP’s chief negotiator, Dr. Jeff Halpern. “The faculty is very committed to doing this.”
The union’s last few meetings with the administration’s negotiating team yielded much- sought-after progress with agreements made on several of the 40-plus articles in the agreement currently under review.
According to Halpern, this points to a change in the way the administration team has approached these negotiations.
“During the summer I did not think we were negotiating,” said Halpern. “We are now negotiating and actually talking about the issues, making movements from existing positions, trying to explain problems and both sides are in a give-and-take approach.”
Although this progress is encouraging, Halpern insisted that there must be more before the current contract expires on Sept. 30 to ward off a strike.
“Negotiations are still going very slowly,” said Halpern. “We have yet to get into any of the compensation issues. We only have a couple of articles closed and many more in front of us.”
“I think both the AAUP and the university would like to see more progress,” said Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Donald Steven. “I think we need to spend more time at the table to do that.”
Although the union members did vote to authorize a strike, Halpern continued to maintain that such an action will be the AAUP’s very last resort in trying to bring the negotiations to a close that is beneficial to both the union and the administration.
“We don’t want a strike,” Halpern said. “We want to settle this amicably, and not worry about what’s going to happen to the term or what’s going to happen to graduation.”
In the meantime, two other courses of action have been made available to the union team through this vote, both of which would occur prior to a strike in attempt to avoid such a stoppage.
The first option is informational picketing, which would serve to widely publicize the fact that a dispute exists between the union and the administration, and would not involve an end to classes or other work.
The second involves stopping all uncompensated work faculty performs for the University, such as advising clubs or teams and any volunteer work on campus.
“These are ways to increase the flow of information about our unhappiness to the community,” Halpern said.
If a strike should occur, Halpern said, all of the members of the union, which includes 244 full-time and 247 part-time professors, librarians, coaches, athletic trainers and reading specialists, would be asked to cease all activities associated with the University.
“We all feel the responsibility to our students to ensure that there is no disruption of their education,” said Steven. “I’m sure that we will do everything we can to avoid that.”