We have names for people who fill the jobs of striking union workers: strikebreakers, replacement workers, scabs. But what to call the people who take the jobs of union members who aren’t striking? Certainly not “professor.” Starting September 7, the first day of the fall semester at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus, classes will be taught entirely by non-faculty members—not because the faculty are on strike, but because on the Friday before Labor Day the administration officially locked out all 400 members of the Long Island University Faculty Federation (LIUFF), which represents full-time and adjunct faculty.
In April, the union and the administration began negotiating a new contract to replace the one set to expire on August 31. Sticking points included cuts to wages for new full-time faculty and adjuncts, the longstanding imbalance in salaries at the Brooklyn campus compared to those at the Post campus on Long Island, and changes to post-tenure review, adjunct teaching hours, and faculty say in class size and online curriculum. Negotiations were still happening in early July when faculty learned the administration had posted notices of job openings for teachers. On August 31, the administration presented its last best offer, which in a letter to faculty it claimed “contains generous increases in salary minima and base wage increases and addresses other areas of concern.” This letter also included the less-than-generous news that faculty were getting locked out, citing the “historical likelihood of a strike.” According to Kevin Pollitt, a labor relations specialist with New York State United Teachers, this is the first time that higher-ed faculty have ever been locked out.
“We’ve been bargaining in good faith and we continue to bargain,” said LIUFF president Jessica Rosenberg. “We had planned to bring their last best final offer to the membership for a ratifying vote on the 31st and they preempted that by informing us we were going to be locked out, and immediately after they locked us out they cut healthcare, salary, and access to e-mail and students.”
“They’re putting economic pressure on the faculty,” said Pollitt. Some faculty say economic pressure as a tool, and a fixation on economics generally has defined LIU president Kimberly Cline’s administration. It began the summer of 2013, before she officially assumed the role of president in September, when according to Rosenberg, hundreds of low- and mid-level administrative support staff, many of them long-term employees, either left or were laid off. During Cline’s first meeting with the faculty senate, she denied any role in this. “The basic thrust of her administration has been to accrue a surplus budget, and she has done that only by firing people,” says Deborah Mutnick, a professor of English and a member of the union executive committee.
When Cline arrived, the school was in bad shape financially, its credit rating approaching junk status. Mutnick points out that when Leon Botstein, then president of Bard College, found himself in the same position, he essentially said “so what?” Botstein was far more concerned with the school’s ability to be a force for public good than its credit rating. “Cline and the LIU board of trustees have had the opposite view: that the primary goal of the university is to improve its credit rating,” said Mutnick. “We feel like we’re the poster child for austerity and neoliberalism in higher education. She wants to corporatize and monetize the university—she wants to turn us into a candy store, and she’s alienated everybody.”