September 9, 2016
By Silver Krieger
New York, NY – Hundreds of protestors gathered on Wednesday, September 7, in front of the Long Island University campus on DeKalb and Flatbush Avenues in Brooklyn, while the big inflatable rat that has become a symbol of scab workers on the premises towered above them.
The teachers in the crowd could not have entered the premises if they wanted to: on Saturday, September 3rd, the University locked out the faculty, in the middle of contract negotiations. Now the teachers, who have lost their health insurance and other benefits, and whose pay is being docked, have nowhere to go, and students, who pay an average of forty thousand dollars a year in tuition, are finding unqualified replacement workers in their classrooms.
Michael Pelias, a member of the Philosophy Department as well as the Executive Committee of LIUFF (Long Island University Faculty Federation, told LaborPress: “We’ve been negotiating since April. We have had no movement from management on twenty-five proposals we made. Our two major issues are parity and part-time workers. The parity problem is that we don’t have wage equality with our sister institution, the suburban campus of LIU, LIU Post. They want to even it out over five years, which isn’t acceptable. Then, they want to take away the gains of part-time faculty, including cutting office hours, increasing the workload, and cutting seniority benefits and health care, among other measures. This is a clear attempt to divide the union into top and bottom – or full and part-time, and ultimately, to bust the union. Nationally, 75% of teaching is done by part-time teachers.”
Ralph Engelman, Vice President of LIUFF, said, “This is an unprecedented lockout. As far as we know, this is the first time faculty has been locked out of an institution of higher learning. This is the culmination of a systematic attack on labor at this campus. There are four other unions on the campus without contracts: Local 153 OPEIU, which is secretaries and staff, Local 30 Operating Engineers, Local 32 BJ, Janitorial, and the Carpenters Union, NYC District Council of Carpenters. We are cut off from our students – we have no access to our email, and we have heard from students that the replacement workers are incompetent and may just be in the classroom for minutes.”
City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo made an appearance at the rally and told LaborPress, “I represent this district, and I’ve been an adjunct elsewhere myself for ten years. The people here do this because it’s a calling and to cultivate the next generation and our future, not to be wealthy. They don’t deserve this. During this week myself and other elected officials will be bringing greater visibility to the situation, and we look forward to sitting down with the LIU President and Board, and Trustees, to try and resolve this unfortunate situation.”
“The Administration's decision to lock us out rather than negotiate has already damaged our students and our members,” Jessica Rosenberg, LIUFF President, said. “We want to teach our students under a contract that affords us dignity and voice. That is why we're fighting back.”