Three unions representing an estimated 9,000 full- and part-time faculty members at Rutgers University went on strike on Monday for the first time in the school’s 257-year history, bringing classes and research at New Jersey’s flagship public university to a halt.
The strike comes after nearly a year of unsuccessful bargaining between union representatives and university officials. The union said on Sunday that both sides remained far apart on several issues, including a pay increase and the rights of untenured adjunct faculty members and graduate workers.
“We intend for this new contract to be transformative, especially for our lowest-paid and most vulnerable members,” Rebecca Givan, the president of one of the unions, Rutgers A.A.U.P.-A.F.T., which represents full-time faculty members, graduate workers, postdoctoral associates and counselors, said in a statement.
Ms. Givan said union proposals that included a significant raise and the promise of job security for adjunct professors were “exactly the ones that the administration has resisted most.”
The university said on Sunday that it did not expect the strike to interfere with academics. The spring semester ends early next month.
“Notwithstanding the action by the union leadership, the university is committed to ensuring that our more than 67,000 students are unaffected by the strike and may continue their academic progress,” the school said in a statement.
“Our students’ ability to complete their coursework and earn their degrees is the university’s highest priority,” it added. “Every effort will be made to ensure that the strike does not affect our students’ progress toward graduation.”
The university has said that it expects all union members to continue working despite the decision to strike and that it believes a strike by public sector workers is illegal in New Jersey.
“The university may go to court to maintain university operations and protect our students, patients and staff from disruptions to their education, clinical care and workplace,” the school said in a statement. “The university may seek an injunction in court to compel a return to normal activities.”
The unions argue that there is no law barring their strike. On Monday, Rutgers A.A.U.P.-A.F.T. called the university’s position “delusional or mendacious” in a post on Twitter.
The strike was called after 94 percent of union members voted in favor of it earlier this year, union officials said. The union said picket lines were planned at Rutgers’s three main campuses in New Brunswick, Newark and Camden.
The strike quickly gained national attention on Monday, with state and federal lawmakers expressing their support for the union action. Senator Bernie Sanders, Democrat of Vermont, said on Twitter: “These workers deserve a good contract with fair pay and benefits NOW.”
Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey made a last-minute effort on Sunday night to defuse the strike, saying on Twitter that he had asked the union bargaining committee and Rutgers officials to negotiate privately in his office on Monday.
“The world-class educators, students and staff of Rutgers University have my word that these parties will negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement that is fair for all parties,” he wrote.
Lola Fadulu contributed reporting.