From the LIUFF Bargaining Team

Sep 4, 2016 by

From the LIUFF Bargaining Team

September 4th, 2016

Dear LIUFF Colleagues,

Over the past few days, you have been barraged by letters from the Administration’s negotiating team.  These letters have been, quite frankly, baffling—a mixture of lecturing us about how good we have it, bragging about their generosity towards us, and bullying, first with the threat of docked pay and cancelled benefits and then by informing us that we are locked out as of Saturday at midnight. They also contain a more insidious message, one that they have been sharing with students in an effort to turn them against the faculty:  that there is a direct connection between treating faculty fairly and tuition increases and that if faculty really cared about students they would take the Administration’s offer.

So at the outset, let us be clear:  the decision to lock out the faculty is unprecedented at LIU, where we have a decades-old tradition of bargaining through the Labor Day weekend and voting on the first Tuesday in September.  This year, they decided that, rather than giving the membership the chance to vote on their offer on its merits, they would force us to vote under duress, having already lost our health insurance and facing the loss of hundreds of dollars a day in docked wages.  What does that say about their own belief in the fairness of their offer?

And let us be clear on this as well:  an administration that cares about students would not use them as pawns in an attempt to break the faculty union. They would not put their educations at risk by sending in unprepared teachers.  And they would not prevent the faculty from doing their jobs.  Whatever this lockout is about, it is not about the welfare of our students.  And it is certainly not about education.

At Tuesday’s meeting, you will get a copy of the Administration’s current offer.  At the meeting, you’ll also hear from members of the negotiating team and the Executive Committee, and you’ll have a chance to ask questions.  In the meantime, we would like to fill in a few key points that the Administration has conveniently omitted in their attempts to persuade the faculty that their offer is to our advantage.

The Administration team says that their offer is good for adjuncts because it provides the opportunity for job security through multi-year appointments.  Leaving aside the draconian nature of the application and review process, what they don’t say is that under their proposal, adjunct faculty will see their potential teaching loads shrink from twelve credits per semester to nine, resulting in a 25% cut in earning potential.  They will stop funding the Adjunct Benefits Trust Fund, which some depend on to purchase health insurance, will stop funding the seniority payments through which we are able to provide a minimal sum to be used toward a pension plan, will stop paying for an office hour for any adjunct who teaches ten or more credits per semester, and will cut out the stipend adjuncts receive for participating in Core Seminar. For the group of faculty who teach the majority of classes at LIU, this proposal is a real step back, a regression that our part time members truly cannot endure.

The Administration failed to point out that their offer would increase librarian workload fifteen days in the fourth and fifth years of their proposed contract and would in those years cut their overload pay in half—and this after our librarian colleagues in 2011 accepted the addition of twenty days to their workloads and a cut to their guaranteed overload.

The Administration’s letters do not touch on the issue of cuts to benefits for new hires, both full and part time.  Full-time hires will receive lower contributions to TIAA/CREF (8% rather than 11%), will have to wait longer to get 100% tuition remission, and will be limited to the Core health insurance plan.  Part-time new hires will be subject to a pay scale that reduces the per-credit rate by hundreds of dollars and will see their tuition remission benefits cut.  The new pay scale also greatly diminishes the ability of full-time faculty to teach overload at competitive rates. Why would administration pay you to teach an overload course when they could pay someone else far less?  These provisions are intended to create a divide in the union and, ultimately, weaken it.

The Administration does not mention their proposals to assume more control over what we do in the classroom, including assuming the right to increase class size. Their technology proposals would delete protections we have on intellectual property and distance learning and erode faculty rights and protections in the classroom. And even seemingly simple things, like the amount of time we have to turn in grades or how and when we use Blackboard remain unreasonable, encroach on our professional autonomy, and could place a member at risk for disciplinary action should he/she not comply.

The Administration does not mention that post tenure review is being proposed, although they have renamed it “Faculty Engagement and Professional Development.”  This provision sets a dangerous new precedent in which tenured faculty are perpetually subject to review and is likely promote intradepartmental conflict while tamping down creativity.

Finally, the Administration has urged you to accept their wage package and have gone so far as to assert that it is the fault of the LIUFF that a disparity in minima exists and that the money was diverted to adjunct faculty. Nothing is further from the truth. Never was any such quid pro quo negotiated or agreed upon by LIUFF leadership.  Attempts to divide us have not worked in the past and they will not work now.  Cutting adjunct wages and benefits to fix a problem that saved the University millions of dollars over the last decade is unacceptable.

We are continuing to negotiate on Labor Day and continuing to stand up for all faculty and, as importantly, for our students.  The negotiating team will not capitulate to an egregious and onerous contract, and we will not let the Administration divide the faculty and attack our freedom and autonomy to teach and create.

In the meantime, please spread the word to your friends and colleagues across the city and across the country and ask for their support. You can direct them to the AFT petition and ask them to sign it and share it widely with their professional networks:  https://actionnetwork.org/letters/end-the-lockout-and-bargain-a-fair-contract-now.  And you can ask them to attend our rally on Wednesday, September 7 at 10 a.m. at LIU.

In Solidarity,

The LIUFF Negotiating Team

18 Comments

  1. Alyssa Picard

    We will be with you all the way.

  2. Judith A Gurdian MD

    Your behavior is beyond belief. While I fully understand you wage complaints, you have used your students as pawns and are indifferent to their abuse in the process. MY daughter is a PhD student and there is no possible way to amend the damage to her education. How will she and her cohort be able to make up for lost time, deal with her daily mounting debt and also meet her academic requirements to continue in her PhD program when you have abandoned her?

    • Jacklyn lacey

      If your daughter is a PhD student, then she and you should be fully standing behind the faculty on this. This is representative of the abysmal conditions awaiting her if she chooses to become an educator. This faculty is protecting the earning potential and working rights and conditions of the students who will enter the worth force in the future as much as they are fighting for their own. This is a tremendously short sighted comment that really foolishly blames faculty for a problem that was obviously caused by the administration. Please educate yourself on this issue and investigate how classist it is to say “while I fully understand your wage complaints” to a group of people you are essentially telling to shut up and get back in the classroom to teach your daughter. Do you really think it is acceptable for the people educating your daughter to be bullied by administration and paid substandard wages and be subject to decreasing pension benefits? Do you genuinely think that wage standards aren’t the thing that will actually impact the quality of your daughter’s education rather? It is also crazy to me that you mention yourndaughter’s debt without seeing that strong faculty bargaining is the mechanism by which she will be best protected to earn a wage to pay that debt off. Have more respect for the faculty on whose back your daughter is lucky enough to receive a world class education. Stand with the faculty. Your lack of comprehension of how faculty rights and autonomy directly impact your daughter is frankly embarrassing.

    • Elizabeth Donaldson

      I hope you have written the same in a letter to the administration.

    • Michael Bennett

      You need to understand that the union has not done anything but bargain and authorize a strike should it become necessary as a last resort. The administration has unilaterally locked out the faculty, cancelled their healthcare, blocked their email, …. Please place the blame where it belongs

    • Mary

      Respectfully, Dr. Gurdian, it is not the faculty using your daughter as a pawn but the administration. They locked out the faculty before there was a vote to force negotiations. The administration has abandoned your daughter, their faculty, and a bond of respect within the university community. I assume your daughter may one day be a faculty member at a university. Surely you want her to be treated by her university administration with the respect that reflects her years of study and sacrifice, as well as her talent and hard work as a faculty member.

    • Rex Brown

      I hope you’re addressing the administration of LIU, whose behavior is, indeed, beyond belief. It is they who have locked out the faculty and who are standing between your daugher and a good education.

    • Eric Lehman

      Dr. Gurdian,
      I appreciate your concern, as well as the feeling that your daughter has been abandoned. But it is President Cline and not the LIU Brooklyn faculty who is responsible for this.
      President Cline, not the faculty, has instituted the lockout. The faculty have been negotiating in good faith but President Cline chose to shut down such negotiation and bully us instead.
      Your gripe is with President Cline. Call her office and voice your concerns.
      Eric Lehman
      Adjunct Professor
      English
      LIU Brooklyn

  3. Stan S.

    I’m not quite sure what to make of this situation. As a student of LIU, I’ve not had the best experience at all. From Draconian professors, to unbelievably rude Enrollment Services to an Administration that is trying to bleed me of my last dime. I would not be surprised if this situation fell into a contributory negligence situation. If both sides were to recognize the group that is actually suffering, the students, they would(I hope) come to a quicker resolution rather than the situation we are currently in.

  4. Brian Prager

    What is the point of destroying higher ed for the sake of investors? This is ridiculous in the extreme, yet it is the “trend” among University administrations. Stop this now, stand against this now. Workers rights and autonomy for teaching faculty, and security for them and their families! Enough!!

  5. My dad was a proud graduate of LIU Brooklyn from the 40’s. Coming from a working class family with no higher education, he was able to put himself through his bachelor’s program in 2.5 years. The lockout is a stain on LIU and a slap in the face to faculty and students everywhere. Reverse the lockout and negotiate in good faith with your faculty.

  6. Radh Achuthan

    9/5/16

    Greetings.

    Over the past 5 decades collective bargaining has been substantially weakened by the Supreme court Decision in ‘American Shipbuilding’ (1965) and the ‘NLRB v Brown’, Decision (1965), in favor of ‘Employer Lockouts’ and ‘Temporary Hires by Employers’, respectively.

    Thus enabled, LIU is negotiating with the faculty in collective bargaining .

    For years Congress has been in Gridlock. Unfilled court vacancies affirm judges are politicians in robes. Wherever one looks the ‘International Money Cartel’ advancing profit for itself, is out ‘to get working people’. It calls upon its surrogates, at all levels, to be supportive in enslaving the Public.

    People eventually react to such leadership; Recently we had BREXIT by an entire nation; and another, GREXIT in EU, has gone through its dress rehearsal.

    In USA, approaches presented by untrustworthy progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans displaced by an extreme viewpoint, are at a loss to close their sale.

    2016 election is likely to signal the need for DREXIT in political life making room for an alternate third party, and,

    such an assessment by American voters would underwrite what voters elsewhere have known all along.

    Given the anti-labor governance environment, LIUFF could consider settling with the necessary minimum adjustments, and

    thereafter, join other USA workers to address the NLRA to regain bargaining ability lost. Ref 1.

    Best.

    Ref 1.

    http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/16531-the-supreme-court-empowers-employers-to-lock-out-workers

    “The NLRA says that employers may not discriminate against employees for the purpose of discouraging employees’ union activity. Locking out employees because they belong to a union which is negotiating a contract with their employer does exactly that. It discourages employees from joining a union and trying to negotiate a favorable contract because they may be prevented from working and lose pay as a result.

    When employers replace union workers with nonunion workers, it is even more evident that the lockout will discourage employees from using their legal right to unionize and negotiate a good contract.”

  7. William Lipkin

    I have been an adjunct professor for decades, and have been abused and disrespected many times. However, the action of the LIU administration in instituting a ‘lockout’of faculty is unconscionable! The ones to suffer the most from this action will be the students, and they are paying the salaries of the administrators. An institution of Higher Learning should have as its goal the education of its students, not fattening the bottom line and supporting overpaid administrators. Wake up LIU and support your faculty and settle a fair contract for ALL faculty.

  8. Ronni Blumenthal

    Lock out is unacceptable. On Labor Day and going forward, I stand with you.

  9. Stephanie Saia

    Kindly explain why the faculty voted to strike in April if they were negotiating in good faith. Also please explsin why they strike every 5 years disrupting the first day of class. This behavior too is unprecedented. Teachers often work years without a contract ( as I did) out of respect for students. While the faculty claims are legitimate they are disrespectful of students and then expect students to stand by them. Students can withdraw with full tuition refund Tuesday. That is where faculty salaries come from. Ultimately the students hold the purse strings.

    • E. Drabinski

      Hi Stephanie, this is a lockout, not a strike. Administration locked out the faculty before they could review and vote on the proposed contract. You can find out more here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/07/nyregion/liu-brooklyn-locks-out-professors-amid-contract-dispute.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0

      • Stephanie Saia

        Ed,
        The faculty voted to strike months before there was even a contract to vote on. This is inexplicable and inexcusable. The university locked the faculty out to avoid strike # 6. I understand its a lockout but it was provoked by a strike vote in APRIL!!!! This is unheard of. The teachers are asking the students to support them? The students have paid their salaries. The teachers need to respect the investment students hsve made and address how they are going to make up the lost time to their students. Otherwise they will all withdraw on Tuesday. They hold the pursestrings.

        • Barry

          The faculty DID NOT VOTE TO STRIKE!!!! The faculty gave the OK to the union to call for a vote to strike if needed.Usually we review the administration”s proposal and vote to accept or reject. Only if the proposal is rejected, then a second vote is taken, a vote to strike or not . We were locked out before we even saw the proposal, let alone voted on it.

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