Full-Time Teachers Settle Contract, Adjuncts Still Negotiating

A full compromise still has not been reached after more than a year of unsuccessful attempts at negotiation between the American Federation of Teachers and the state for an all-inclusive contract.

In July 2011, the teacher's union labor contract expired. When no agreement could be reached, faculty, staff and students voiced their frustration during demonstration events throughout the following academic year.

A deal for full-time staff was agreed in principle over the summer and ratified this past month. However, adjunct faculty is still working without a contract.

Irene Kuchta, president of Ramapo's chapter of the American Federation of Teachers since 2008, oversaw the ordeal from start to finish. She said that economic issues were the biggest obstacles in the way of getting the deal done.

"The big issues for us were contractual rights," Kuchta said. "The old deal had steps or a raise; you'd get one year after year. In the new one, they wanted to take that away, and for the first and second years, there'd be no raise."

This isn't uncommon, however. Economic issues, such as pay and raises, are at the forefront of most labor disputes. In New Jersey, the AFT was concerned with protecting jobs.

"What they wanted to take away, there was no job protection whatsoever," Kuchta said.

Students around campus heard rumors of the contract dispute and even some heard of a strike that the professors might have taken if a deal could not be reached.

"Cancelling the semester, however that would have worked, was the big rumor. I'm glad that didn't happen," sophomore Adam Gambutti said. "There's enough that teachers and students have to worry about."

Rumors of the impending strike spread quickly, but no one knew for sure whether there was any truth to them.

"If a deal had not been reached by September, we were contemplating the next steps we would take," Kuchta said.

Yet, the AFT had no intention of bringing students into the mix and wanted to keep business outside of the classroom.

"We tried very hard not to affect our students," Kuchta said. "The only thing we did as a protest was not go to commencement, but we went to the arching ceremony."

Chris Macaluso, a 2012 graduate, said he did not notice that the faculty did not attend commencement.

"Commencement is more for family; I didn't notice they weren't there," Macaluso said. "I didn't see it as a big deal."

Kuchta shared the same sentiment in regards to the absence of faculty and staff at the Prudential Center.

"I graduated from high school and college, I couldn't even remember if professors attended my commencement," Kuchta said.

Now, the focus of negotiations have shifted to the adjunct professors who are still working without a deal. The same economic issues are the major cause for their contractual unrest.

Kuchta said she does not foresee any demonstrations in the immediate future.

"There are no events on the horizon, but that can change," Kuchta said.

Contract talks were scheduled for this week.