Downtown

Long Island University-Brooklyn hit with labor pains on Labor Day Weekend

September 2, 2016 By James Harney Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Long Island University Brooklyn's main building at Flatbush and DeKalb avenues, where faculty and university administration are embroiled in a contract dispute over the Labor Day weekend. Eagle photo by James Harney

On the eve of the fall 2016 semester, Long Island University-Brooklyn’s administration and its unionized faculty are embroiled in a heated contract dispute.

The clash escalated late this week with threats from both sides: the administration announcing plans to lock out faculty at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, and union leaders warning that students arriving for the first day of classes Wednesday could encounter a picket line outside the school’s campus at Flatbush and DeKalb avenues.

The dual warnings came as negotiations for a new contract broke down as the existing pact expired Aug. 31. The key sticking point, say officials of the union — the Long Island University Faculty Federation (LIUFF) — is a disparity in pay between faculty at LIU-Brooklyn and LIU-Post in Brookville, Long Island.

“The University seeks to eliminate a parity clause despite a long history of greater resources and compensation for suburban LIU Post [and] continues to offer Brooklyn a lower salary increase,” union leaders said in a statement released Thursday.

That union statement further charged that the university “seeks onerous changes such as post tenure review, and aims to impose harsh new … conditions on part-time adjunct faculty.”

The two sides tried — but failed — to resolve the salary disparity issue through arbitration over the summer.

“We’ve seen very little movement on their part,” said English Professor and LIUFF spokeswoman Deborah Mutnick. “They brought a proposal for rectifying the disparity in salary and we think it’s inadequate.”

In a statement, university officials said, “Based on the most recent contract, the Brooklyn faculty and adjuncts are well compensated when compared to peers at other institutions within the tristate area and nationally.”

School officials further contend that “The proposals set forth by the union to date would compromise the university’s ability to limit tuition costs for students and their families.”

In a later statement emailed to the Brooklyn Eagle, LIU spokeswoman Jennifer Solomon wrote:

“On the issue of parity, the University’s Collective Bargaining Agreements with LIU Brooklyn and LIU Post faculty have consistently included the same across-the-board rate increases for base compensation. Each union has independently directed those increases to best suit the various and differing needs of its respective constituents.

“During past Collective Bargaining Agreements, the Brooklyn faculty union has chosen to reduce rate increases for full-time minimum salaries compared to the rate increases at LIU Post, and reallocate those funds for increases to adjunct rates …

“Having opted to distribute compensation differently than the union at LIU Post, the Brooklyn union now demands that full time faculty salaries be brought up to match those at LIU Post, but proposes no offset, whether from adjunct salaries or otherwise, to account for the increase,” the statement continued.

Solomon said that this was the first time the school had instituted a lockout in response to a dispute, and that university officials were anticipating a faculty strike. She added, “The university has asked the faculty to ratify a contract before returning to work to ensure an uninterrupted academic experience for its students.”

LIUFF President Dr. Jessica Rosenberg responded that the union “will not be intimidated by a lockout that is unprecedented in LIU history, and will continue to bargain in good faith.”

University officials said that despite the lockout, they likewise remained open to continued negotiations with the union and pledged that the lockout would not affect Wednesday’s scheduled first day of classes.

Union leaders said they would meet today to take a contract — and possible strike — vote, and, if an agreement is not reached, they planned to set up a picket line outside the Downtown Brooklyn campus.