We don’t want to belabor the point, however, we will. The recent retirements of 105 Full-Time faculty is a zero-sum game. It will cost the College about $13,000,000 to pay out the retirees vs the $13,000,000 they would have paid these faculty if they never retired. Therefore, the “deficit” is a result of lower than anticipated student enrollment, retention, etc. The College has reached an agreement with NIFA to bond $7,500,000 dollars over a 4-year term equaling about $2,000,000 annually to pay this money back. In this zero-sum equation for the 2015-2016 academic year, the College has been able to hire 36 FT faculty on both temporary and probationary lines. This may or may not be an acceptable start, but it is the number of replacements we have. The Board of Trustees and the Interim President have issued statements recognizing the critical role of the FT faculty and indicating their commitment to increasing these numbers in the future. The NCCFT will be carefully watching the future budgets of the College in anticipation of the College keeping this promise.
The retirement of 105 FT faculty has created a staffing crisis for the Spring 2016 semester. Department Chairs have been working diligently to find day adjuncts to teach the classes and provide the support services previously provided by these retirees. At a recent Chairs meeting, a discussion ensued with Dr. Saunders and the President of the AFA, Stefan Krompier, regarding exceptions to the 8/18 AFA restrictions and allowing FT faculty with reassign time to teach day adjunct. While no answers were provided, let’s review this.
Several months ago, the AFA sent a survey to their membership. Their published conclusions included:
• FT faculty teaching adjunct also hold office hours per the NCCFT contract
• Retired NCCFT faculty teaching adjunct would have extra time to provide assistance to their students
This may, in fact, be true because FT faculty have a history of commitment to the campus and students. While we certainly don’t differentiate our FT class students from our adjunct class students, this begs the question “do the FT faculty teaching adjunct have different responsibilities than ‘pure’ adjuncts?”
In addition, there is a practice whereby the Administration prohibits FT faculty from teaching day adjunct when the Administration doles out reassign time for a project. Yet, these situations constitute a private agreement and are not contractually defined. However, this restriction has not applied to FT faculty on contractual reassign time. There is no such restriction in either the NCCFT contract or the AFA contract. The idea that reassign time and the services that we provide only occur from 8-5 is an insulting perception. In addition, FT faculty with NCCFT contractual reassign time (i.e. Chairs, Liaisons, ASEC, NCCFT) who are attempting to relieve the Spring 2016 staffing (105 retirements) crisis by offering to teach adjunct in the day (seniority permitting) are being denied their rights under the AFA contract. There are countless examples where FT faculty (with office hours) teaching day adjunct are teaching Honors, Learning Communities, Achilles and other special populations and initiatives that are designed to improve retention.
It is unfortunate that the Administration has decided to create and enforce a policy that does not exist in any contract. It is unconscionable on their part to create and enforce this policy at the same time the students, faculty, administration and Board of Trustees are talking about the positive differences the FT faculty make to the institution. This new policy exacerbates the loss of FT faculty during the day by replacing them with pure adjuncts, thereby denying the students the services and opportunities they deserve, need and are entitled to. This has been repeatedly discussed at every venue on this campus. This misguided and illegal effort denying FT faculty their AFA seniority rights, along with the AFA survey conclusions, point to a disparate set of working conditions for FT faculty teaching day adjunct. An AFA grievance has been filed regarding the reassign time issue. Thoughts? We would love to hear from you. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Union fees in jeopardy: In Plain English
For nearly forty years, it has been settled that, although public employees who don’t join a union cannot be required to pay for the union’s political activities, they can be charged an “agency” or “fair share” fee to pay for other costs that the union incurs – for example, for collective bargaining. After over an hour of oral arguments today, public-employee unions are likely very nervous, as the Court’s more conservative Justices appeared ready to overrule the Court’s 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education and strike down the fees. Let’s talk about Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association in Plain English.
The most telling sign that lead plaintiff Rebecca Friedrichs and her fellow teachers are likely to prevail may have actually come from the Court’s four more liberal Justices, who spent relatively little time on the main legal issue before the Court – that is, whether requiring non-members to pay the fee violates the First Amendment. Instead, many of their questions centered on whether, even if Friedrichs has a stronger legal argument, the Court should still rule against her based on a legal doctrine known as “stare decisis” – which counsels that the Court should not overturn its prior rulings unless there is a particularly compelling reason to do so. This suggests that the more liberal Justices realized that the battle on the merits of the case was not one that they could win. And so they shifted gears, trying to salvage a victory by convincing at least one of their colleagues that it would, as a matter of principle, be a bad idea to overrule the decision in Abood.
Justice Elena Kagan led the charge, telling Michael Carvin – who argued on behalf of Friedrichs – that public-employee unions have entered “tens of thousands of contracts,” governing “millions of employees, maybe as high as 10 million employees,” that would be disrupted if the Court were to overturn Abood. Therefore, she asked Carvin, “what special justification are you offering here” to do so? When Carvin answered that “the right of the citizen not to be subjected to unconstitutional treatment outweighs any reliance or predictability interests of stare decisis,” Kagan shot back, clearly unconvinced: “Your answer is essentially you don’t need a special justification if” the first decision denied a constitutional right? Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg chimed in, asking whether employees who don’t join a union would ask for their fees back if Friedrichs wins and suggesting to Carvin that, if the Court overrules Abood, other cases that rely on it would also fall, with far-reaching effects.
In at least a brief flicker of hope for the unions, Justice Anthony Kennedy also seemed to express some concern, telling Carvin that, if they were to “assume that stare decisis is an important consideration for the Court,” what happens to the “many contracts, perhaps thousands of contracts?” Carvin stood his ground, telling Kennedy that the extent to which unions and governments may have relied on the Court’s decision in Abood is irrelevant.
Justice Stephen Breyer made an even broader appeal, focused on the effect that reversing course on the union fees would have on the public’s view of the Court, that may have been directed not only at Kennedy but also at Chief Justice John Roberts, who cares very much about the Court’s legitimacy. Noting that the Court’s ruling in Abood has worked “reasonably well,” Breyer asked Carvin to explain, “from the point of view of this Court’s role in society,” when “you start overruling things,” “what happen to the country thinking of us as a kind of stability . . . in a world that is tough because it changes a lot?” “It’s a matter of considerable concern,” Breyer emphasized. Breyer acknowledged that some decisions should be overturned – for example, the Court’s 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, which upheld laws mandating racial segregation under the “separate but equal” doctrine. That decision, Breyer reasoned, “certainly should have been overruled” “because it was a right to treat people equally.” But, Breyer told Carvin, “I can’t find a basic principle here that’s erroneous.”
Questions from the Court’s more conservative Justices confirmed that the more liberal Justices had good reason to be concerned that Friedrichs had the advantage on the merits, as the more conservative Justices displayed skepticism about virtually all of the major arguments proffered in support of the union fees. Arguing on behalf of California, which supported the union, California Solicitor General Edward DuMont emphasized the long history of labor unrest in California in the 1960s, which prompted the state to adopt the current system of unions and fees. California has a critical interest in managing government workplaces, DuMont told the Justices, and it needs to be able to deal with a single union that employees also perceive as adequately representing their interests. The fees at issue in this case serve an important interest in ensuring that such a representative exists, he argued, by providing sufficient and stable funding for the union.
Justice Antonin Scalia voiced sympathy for the state’s need to run its workplaces smoothly, but he was nonetheless dubious about both the need to charge non-members a fee and the consequences if the Court were to strike down the fees. Scalia asked DuMont to explain why public-employee unions would not survive when unions representing federal employees don’t charge non-members similar fees but nonetheless “prosper,” in Scalia’s words. Michael Carvin returned to this point during his rebuttal, reminding the Justices that, in addition to the federal government, twenty-five states already prohibit such fees and were “all fine.”
And Justice Anthony Kennedy downplayed what the union characterizes as a “free rider” problem – the idea that a public employee who declines to join the union that represents him benefits from the union’s work on his behalf without having to pay for it. He told DuMont that “many teachers strongly, strongly disagree with the union’s position.” Charging them a fee, he suggested, doesn’t solve the “free rider” problem, but instead makes them a “compelled rider” on those positions.
Representing the California Teachers Association, David Frederick focused on the nuts and bolts of collective bargaining, explaining that the resulting contracts were “very long, detailed agreements” that covered not only hot-button issues but also more mundane questions like when teachers should arrive at work. All of those questions, he told the Court, require the union to (among other things) conduct legal research and survey its members – the kinds of activities that the fees at issue in this case support. But Scalia countered that, if the union’s work was clearly so important, it should easily be able to convince teachers to join the union instead. And when Frederick emphasized that regulations governing how firefighters in Wisconsin should safely respond to fires were the result of collective bargaining, Roberts retorted that “all of that would still survive” if Friedrichs were to prevail, “unless your basic argument” is that “the unions are going to collapse and not be in a position to negotiate those safety requirements.”
By contrast, some of the Court’s more conservative Justices clearly seemed to buy into a point crucial to Friedrichs’s argument: the idea that, unlike unions in the private sector, the collective bargaining process for public-employee unions is an inherently political one because the salaries and benefits and policies that the union is negotiating affect government budgets. During DuMont’s argument, Scalia told him that “everything that is collectively bargained with the government is within the political sphere, almost by definition,” and Scalia later told U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, arguing on behalf of the federal government in support of the union, that the government is “not the same as a private employer” – “what is bargained for is all a matter of public interest.” Roberts echoed this sentiment, telling DuMont that “the amount of money that’s going to be allocated to public education, as opposed to public housing, welfare benefits, that’s always a public policy issue.”
Also significant was the attention (or lack thereof) that the Justices paid to the other question in the case: whether a public employee who doesn’t join a union can be required to affirmatively “opt out” to receive a refund of the part of the fee that is not related to collective bargaining. As I explained in my preview of the case, Friedrichs and the other challengers argue that, instead of charging everyone for those expenses and requiring non-members to opt out, the union should only charge the people who affirmatively opt in by agreeing to pay them. This question only comes into play if the Justices rule against Friedrichs and uphold the fee, but the Justices didn’t seem particularly interested in it – which may imply that the more conservative Justices believe that they have five votes to strike down the fee and won’t need to reach this question at all. We’ll know more in a few months, when the Justices issue their decision; when they do, we will be back to cover it in Plain English.
[Disclosure: Goldstein & Russell, P.C., whose attorneys contribute to this blog in various capacities, is among the counsel on an amicus brief by the American Federation of Teachers and American Association of University Professors in support of the respondents in this case. The author of this post, however, is not affiliated with the law firm.]
John A. Green, III
COURT TO HEAR ARGUMENTS IN ANTI-UNION CASE
With the U.S. Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments Jan. 11 in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the AFT and our allies continue pushing out the message about the threat the anti-union case poses to the rights of working Americans. On Jan. 6, union members attempted to deliver more than 100,000 petition signatures to the Center for Individual Rights in Washington, D.C., which is behind the Friedrichs lawsuit. On arriving at the building, however, security employees wouldn’t let the members past the lobby, and the center’s staff refused to speak to them. That same day at a press briefing on the case organized by the Alliance for Justice, a coalition of advocacy organizations that includes the AFT, Illinois high school teacher Pankaj Sharma was a featured speaker. A member of the AFT-affiliated North Suburban Teachers Union, Sharma spoke of how his strong, vibrant union has advocated effectively not only for school employees but also for the community at large on a range of issues.
•Read more about events related to Friedrichs.
•Read a Medium post by the educator who started the petition.
Inside AFT–Jan. 8
At approximately 3:03:41 is the actual discussion and confirmation
The close of the Fall/2015 semester brings a total of 106 NCCFT members participating in the Special Retirement Incentive. Below is a list of these colleagues who represent thousands of years of service. The contributions made by these individuals to our students, campus and community are impossible to calculate, list or express. We recognize their departure will impact the campus in both obvious and subtle ways.
Couple this with the havoc wrought upon the campus from an Administration incapable or unwilling to cooperate with the faculty, adhere to established policies and powerless to provide a remedy for a dysfunctional Board of Trustees. The NCCFT leadership, Academic Senate Executive Committee, Chairs and membership recognize we are in a state of transition. The Administration, Board of Trustees and other internal and external stakeholders also understand this. The next Nassau Community College President must understand this. Many important questions regarding this transition must be asked and answered. The NCCFT Executive Committee wants to assure the membership and entire college community that the foundation established by past and present members will be sustained and strengthened. We are fully engaged and organized to uphold the standards we value and deliver the quality of the educational experience we are entrusted with.
The transition begins now, be prepared for discussions, calls to action and choices. We shall remain strong in our unity and commitment.
To all our retirees – happy holidays, thank you for your years of dedication, and remember the countless lives you have touched. We wish you happiness and the very best of health in your future endeavors. To those continuing at NCC – happy holidays, thank you for your years of dedication, and remember the countless lives you have touched. There is no doubt all of you will continue your efforts to make this a better world.
We wish you all a happy and healthy new year.
The NCCFT Executive Committee
Nassau County Republican chairman Joseph Mondello is outraged by the bad apples in his party, just shocked by the poison of corruption flowing through the veins of local government. In an interview with Newsday, Mondello said he wanted to drum some individuals, who went unidentified, out of the GOP organization for giving it such a bad name.
But it’s not just the corruption conviction of former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos or the grand jury investigations of contracting practices in Nassau County and the Town of Oyster Bay that are his problem. Business as usual, even if it shades to the gray side of legal, is what Mondello should worry about.
The latest example is the Nassau Community College board usurping the powers of the school’s president to hand a plum $150,000-a-year job to the soon-to-be-out-of-work Kate Murray. Trustees voted to make her “acting general counsel” on Jan. 1.
Mondello surely feels badly about Murray, who didn’t seek re-election as Hempstead supervisor because she was the odds-on favorite to win the open seat for district attorney. But Murray got yoked to ongoing scandals in the county, which combined with her lack of credentials for the job of prosecutor to sink her campaign. Honoring their tradition, the GOP power brokers turned to the satellite entities they control to engineer a safe landing for Murray.
Midway through the Dec. 8 meeting of the NCC board, trustee Anthony Cornachio made a motion that Murray should be offered the upcoming vacancy for the job of general counsel for government relations. Videos of the meeting posted online turn hilarious as Cornachio, who a month ago advocated abolishing the job, says he’s never met Murray but has heard good things about her. Then he wonders whether “Kate” is short for Kathleen or Katherine. On the video, Thomas Dolan, interim president of the college, appears stunned and opposes the move. State regulations reserve the power to appoint staff to the president.
The stealth move hasn’t escaped the notice of SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, who told the editorial board that her office is looking very carefully at what transpired. She said the trustees made a public promise that the college would do a full search for a permanent candidate, and she expects them to do so. She was even more emphatic that Murray not be offered a permanent position until a new college president is chosen, noting that “best practices” dictate that a president should choose senior staff.
Dolan, a respected educator on Long Island, was chosen by Zimpher in an attempt to quell turmoil at the college, which is now in the third year of its search for a new president. Usurping the power of Dolan, who at the outset said he didn’t want to be considered for a permanent appointment, risks undercutting the school’s ability to attract qualified candidates who see they would inherit a runaway board.
Murray may well be the most qualified to be general counsel, a job with a public and governmental relations component. But the GOP’s attitude that it can manipulate government for personal benefit is a form of corruption, because it further erodes the belief that Nassau officials are honest brokers of the public good.
By The Editorial Board of Newsday