Locked out LIU faculty picket campus on first day of fall classes

Placard-Waving Professors March Outside School’s Downtown Brooklyn Campus as Labor Dispute Drags On

September 7, 2016 By James Harney Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Locked out Long Island University Brooklyn professors march on a picket line on the first day of fall 2016 classes outside the school's main entrance on Flatbush and DeKalb avenues. Eagle photos by James Harney
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They couldn’t walk in, so they marched outside — loudly.

The simmering labor dispute between unionized faculty and the administration at Long Island University Brooklyn came to a boil Wednesday when dozens of locked out professors set up a boisterous picket line at the school’s main entrance at Flatbush and DeKalb avenues.

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Waving placards bearing such messages as “Let Us Teach!” and “Students Deserve the Best Educators” and loudly chanting “Hey-hey, ho-ho, Union busting’s got to go” and “What’s Disgusting? Union Busting!” the picket line effectively disrupted the first day of fall classes for 8,000 returning students.

The protesting faculty — members of the Long Island University Faculty Federation — have been locked out of the school since Saturday after negotiations for a new contract to replace the pact that expired Aug. 31 broke down.

The picketing professors insisted Wednesday that they are not on strike — both the administration and union leaders confirmed yesterday that contract talks are set to resume today [Thursday] — and called Wednesday’s action “informational picketing.”

“The administration locked us out; we’re not able to go into the building,” said biology Professor Stephanie Porcelli. “They hired temp faculty to replace us. I don’t know how many [replacements] went in there, but I’ve heard from students who have come out to talk to us that a lot of classes didn’t run at all; there just was nobody there.”

Asked if he thought there was a replacement teaching the news reporting course he has taught at LIU-Brooklyn since 2009, journalism Professor Curtis Stephen said, “I hope not, but we’re hearing that for all the classes, somebody is there, but what we’re hearing as well is that the replacements that are there are simply coming in, taking attendance and saying, ‘You can go.’”

The key sticking point in the contract impasse is a disparity in pay between faculty at LIU-Brooklyn and LIU-Post in Brookville, Long Island. Porcelli said that disparity was “significant, about 20 percent.

“And the Brooklyn campus is the one that supports the university; the Brooklyn campus is the one that brings in all the money; the Brooklyn campus is the one with the successful programs; there’s really no reason for [the Brooklyn faculty] not to get paid.”

LIU spokeswoman Jennifer Solomon said in an emailed statement that in fact, “the University’s Collective Bargaining Agreements with LIU-Brooklyn and LIU-Post faculty have consistently included the same offer.”

She added, however, that “LIU Brooklyn chose to reallocate … wage increases in a manner that did not increase … salaries at the same rate as the Post faculty.” 

The statement issued by Solomon further stated that the during current contract negotiations, the university has offered a proposal that, “by the beginning of third year of the contract (Sept.1, 2018), approximately 77 percent of the fulltime Brooklyn Faculty will be at or above the LIU-Post minimums and every fulltime member of the Brooklyn faculty will be at or above the comparable LIU-Post minimums by the beginning of the fifth year of the contract (Sept. 1, 2020).”

The faculty union’s position has garnered the support of a number of local elected officials, including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo, who represents the district in which the university is located and who showed up at the picket line to vocally exhort the demonstrators on.

“You have been given the greatest slap in the face,” Cumbo said in a passionate speech to the demonstrators. “To be locked out of the institution that you have helped to build, that you have helped to cultivate. And I am angered, and I am disappointed. Our young people should not have to come to school and see their faculty out on the street like riff-raff. You deserve better and they deserve better.” 

Cumbo told the Brooklyn Eagle that she and other elected officials who have previously urged that the salary parity gap between the Brooklyn and Post campuses be closed plan to seek a meeting with LIU administration “hopefully as soon as this week.”

LIU Vice President and CEO Gale Stevens Haynes said in a statement this week, “It’s disappointing that the LIUFF has rejected a contract offer that the university believes is generous and highly competitive. The university will continue to bargain in good faith, with the goal of welcoming its valued faculty back to the classroom upon timely resolution of the contract.”

In another development adding to LIU’s labor woes, the union that represents 150 clerical and technical staffers on the University’s Brooklyn and Post campuses announced that it has declared  “no confidence” in the leadership of University President Kimberly Cline.

Nick Galipeau, Business Agent of OPEIU Local 153, wrote in an email to the Brooklyn Eagle that “Our members’ collective action is precipitated by years of labor strife and union busting orchestrated by Cline and the Long Island University administration.  Currently, our members are working under an “imposed final offer,” which is a testament to the breakdown in labor relations between Cline’s administration and the hardworking staff.  Examples include National Labor Relations charges of coercion and other work-related violations.

“In response to comprehensive anti union tactics by management several unions at Long Island University have formed a labor council to respond to Cline with collective actions.”


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