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.
The LIUFF Negotiating Team