College faculty reach new deal on contract

New Jersey chapters of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) voted to ratify a new four-year contract last week.

The union represents over 7,000 faculty and staff members at public colleges and universities across the state including faculty and staff at the College.

The contract, negotiated with the state, passed with 1,450 ballots cast in favor of ratification and only 134 votes against ratification. Ballots were due on Sept. 27.

The wide margin can be credited to the union leadership’s push for “Yes” votes from its members.

“They always do what we tell them,” Ralph Edelbach, president of AFT Local 2364 and associate professor of technology studies at the College, joked. “It was a good contract and, all things considered, we’d have been foolish not to take it.”

While some concessions were made during AFT bargaining, including a 1.5 percent salary deduction for health benefits, Edelbach said that, were the union to go back to the bargaining table, it would likely be offered a worse contract from the state.

“If you look at the condition that the state is in economically now from where they were when we negotiated this, we can be pretty sure that they wouldn’t offer as good a contract to us now,” Edelbach said.

The benefits of the contract for faculty and staff members include increased numbers of permitted sabbaticals, increased summer session pay and 40 percent tuition waivers for children, spouses and civil union partners. The contract also includes a scaled 13 percent salary increase over the next four years: 3 percent increases for the first two years and 3.5 percent increases for the last two years.

A tentative agreement with the state was reached back in July, though it was not ratified into a contract until last week. The previous contract for AFT workers expired at the end of June, though the new contract retroactively covers the time between the old contract’s expiration and the new contract’s ratification.

AFT members join Communications Workers of America members at the College, whose union ratified an agreement back in April, as contracted employees of the state through 2011.