Murphy wants quick resolution of Rutgers strike — but not one on backs of students

Governor: I’m not happy it’s come to this; I’d be lying if I said otherwise

Gov. Phil Murphy was perhaps only half-joking when he said he wished he could lock representatives of Rutgers University and its unions in a locked room and throw away the key until an agreement is reached.

Murphy, speaking Monday afternoon, hours after nearly every Rutgers professor, teacher or instructor went on strike — bringing the campus to a halt — made it clear that he’s upset.

“I am not happy it’s come to this — I’d be lying if I said otherwise,” he said, speaking at a media event regarding a different matter. “So, that’s why, yesterday, we said, ‘Everybody’s going to get in a room, and we’ll do a version of lock-the-door-and-throw-the-key-away until we come up with a solution here.’”

Murphy summoned both sides to the Trenton on Sunday night, after the unions representing nearly all of the school’s instructors announced they had voted to go on strike.

With the spring semester nearly over — and graduation scheduled for May 14 — Murphy said time is of the essence.

But he just as quickly said he wants a fair deal.

“I expect a deal that is a fair deal for all parties, ASAP,” he said. “But I am not a fan of a deal that’s on the back of our students.”

Murphy said members of his administration are part of the discussions. And he said he personally had conversations with both sides on Sunday night.

And, while he said he enjoys good relations with both sides, he was not shy about his relationship with labor.

“I don’t think there’s been more pro-labor administration in the history of the state,” he said. “We have been, unabashedly. I call ourselves the quintessential American organized labor state. We don’t just say that, the evidence backs it up.”

Murphy sidestepped a question about whether a legal ruling could help the situation.

“Let’s let this play out,” he said. “We need to get a resolution here. If we don’t get resolution, there are many losers, including the many thousands of students who go to Rutgers — and that would be a really bad outcome.”