On Wednesday, Oct. 14, the American Federation of Teachers held a solidarity walk in support of Ramapo College’s faculty members working without contracts. Last July, faculty members’ contracts expired, leaving them in limbo while the College tries to negotiate them.
Martha Ecker, president of AFT Local 2272 and leader of the march spoke about what the march stands for: “One of the things that we’re arguing is that in an affluent state like New Jersey, the fact that funding has decreased so substantially in the last decade is one of the reasons that we are currently working without a contract.”
Jillian Weiss, a law and society professor with the College, spoke about her reasons for marching for contracts: “We’re working without a contract since July. We want fairness for ourselves and for working people, and for people who put a lot of effort into making a difference for students, and for other faculty and staff here. We want to make sure that people get a fair wage and a fair living.”
Weiss also spoke about how union workers are often looked down upon by those outside of the union, and how unions are used as scapegoats. “I think that it is politically easy to bash unions and union workers; people are having a hard time making a living in our society because of all the corporate interests that have pushed down the wages. So who do you blame it on? Not the corporate interest – you redirect the people’s attention to union workers.”
Adjunct professors, as well as full-time faculty marched. Timothy Judge, an environmental studies adjunct professor, marched along with his fellow co-workers.
“As an adjunct professor, I firmly believe that we should be compensated more fairly – that we should have opportunities to work more hours and teach more classes. There should be opportunities to develop professionally.”
Judge also went on to say that, “I think that students need to be aware of the conditions that faculty teach under. Not only the full-time faculty, but the adjuncts. We don’t have a contract, so there’s no job security, no benefits for the adjuncts.”
Students also walked for their professor’s contracts.
“I came out here as a student to show support for my professors,” said senior Francis Gryglak. “Because I believe that this is a rather unpleasant situation for them, and as a student I’m basically paying for their salary, and I wouldn’t want them to work without contracts.”
The solidarity walk took marching students and faculty through the Atrium, around the Laurel quad, down to the Village and back to the Arch.
“I think the turnout was decent,” said Ecker. “You know, we’re hoping that as time goes on and we continue to work without a contract, which is what we are fully expecting, that we’ll get more people to join us and that the students, we’ll have their support as well. We generally have had really good support from our students here, and so I hope we’ll continue to see that.”
While the solidarity walk may have already occurred, AFT office manager Jude Pernot spoke about the future.
“We’re hoping to do more of these on a somewhat regular basis. We’ve got a bulletin board across from the Specialized Services Offices, and we’re going to be posting information there to try and keep students informed.”
Additional reporting by Laura French