Long Island University-Brooklyn Locks Out All Faculty; Students Walk Out In Support

BROOKLYN, N.Y. —In what the union called “an unprecedented move in higher education,” the administration at Long Island University’s Brooklyn, N.Y., campus locked out its entire faculty – full-timers, part-timers, adjuncts and others – just before Labor Day.

The lockout came though the faculty union, American Federation of Teachers Local 3998, offered to keep bargaining, while its 240 full-timers and 400 adjuncts kept teaching, for the next five weeks. Management’s lockout led LIU-Brooklyn students to walk out in support.

Key issues in the case are management demands that adjunct faculty take pay cuts and its refusal to achieve pay parity at its two campuses. It also wants to eliminate a trust fund for health insurance for the adjuncts – untenured part-timers – in Brooklyn. Management countered that it’s actually giving Brooklyn full-timers a raise.

LIU is a private university, with its main campus, the old C.W. Post University, and its administration building in Nassau County. Faculty there reached a contract previously, but data show full-timers there earn 20 percent more than their Brooklyn counterparts.

In Brooklyn, the Long Island University Faculty Federation, Local 3998, told media that management started planning for a lockout in July. LIU hired temps and forced administrators – some unqualified to teach classes they got – to, in the words of at least one, “scab.” And in locking out the faculty, management cut out all their wages and benefits, including health care.

Local 3998 filed labor law-breaking charges, including failure to bargain, repudiation of the contract and bad-faith bargaining, with the National Labor Relations Board’s regional office.

And AFT President Randi Weingarten sent a letter to 14 national college organizations telling them of the lockout and saying it jeopardizes LIU-Brooklyn’s academic standards and accreditations. The American Association of University Professors called the lockout an “ongoing attempt to coerce the faculty” into giving in.

Though bargaining sessions were scheduled for Sept. 14, negotiations broke down earlier this summer after the faculty voted overwhelmingly to authorize the union to call a strike. Such a “strike authorization” vote is usually a warning shot before an actual walkout.

Management’s counteroffer after that was so bad that English professor Jonathan Haynes called it “strike bait.” Fellow English Professor Deborah Mutnick added that LIU President Kimberly “Cline wants to corporatize and monetize the university. She wants to turn us into a candy store, and she’s alienated everybody.”

“We were negotiating our five-year contract that ended Aug. 31 and before we even had a chance to present the administration proposal to the full membership, the day after Labor Day, the management preemptively locked us out, which is unprecedented in American history,” said Local 3998 Vice President Ralph Engelman, chair of LIU’s journalism department at Brooklyn. “We saw it as intimidation. Health care was taken away, we stopped being paid, and our access to university e-mail was blocked.”

Students took to the streets, chanting “You say lockout! We say walk out!” and “Join us! Join us!” “We’re aren’t planning to go back to class at all until our professors are back,” Sharda Mohammed, a sophomore studying philosophy, told the Gothamist. “I walked into my English class and the guy gave us a syllabus and told us we could leave. He couldn’t even pronounce the names of the books.”  Other students reported the subs and scabs taught for five minutes.

Student and walkout co-organizer Devon Wilks told Democracy Now that “We’re really rallying for our president to get our professors back into the office right now. We want our professors to teach. It’s almost been a week since our professors have been locked out, and we’re really upset about that, because we pay almost $40,000 for tuition, and it is unacceptable that our professors are not able to get into the classroom and teach the students.”

Source: PAI