Judge orders striking NCC adjuncts back to work

Adjunct Faculty Association members, on strike, picket outside Adjunct Faculty Association members, on strike, picket outside the Administrative Building at Nassau Community College in Garden City. (Sept 10, 2013) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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A judge Tuesday ordered Nassau Community College's adjunct faculty back to work after the school's lawyer sought a court injunction on the second day of a strike that already led to some class cancellations.

The order temporarily restrains members of the Adjunct Faculty Association from participating in the strike and the union's leaders from encouraging a walkout. It was issued late Tuesday afternoon by State Supreme Court Justice Margaret C. Reilly.

Charles Loiacono, president of the union, which represents more than 3,000 part-time instructors and professors, said he and his members plan to defy the court order even if it means being held in contempt of court and getting arrested.

"The strike will go on," Loiacono said Tuesday night of the job action, the union's first since 1982.

A strike is illegal for public employees under the Taylor Law. The penalty for striking adjuncts means a fine of two days' pay for every day they strike.

The strike, which began Monday after NCC's board of trustees did not approve a proposed contract, left some classrooms unstaffed and drew mixed reactions from students.

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"I'm paying for my classes out-of-pocket," said Robert Haywood, 20, a sophomore from Uniondale who also works in the electronics department at Walmart. "I need my teachers to be here so I can get my education."

The union is asking for an eight-year contract that they say would raise members' pay by 4.9 percent yearly. They have been working without a contract since 2010.

Adjuncts are paid between $1,090 and $1,750 per credit hour. The average adjunct teaches six credit hours per semester.

Students said the uncertainty about the strike will take a toll on them. Many, like Haywood, were concerned about scheduling conflicts with jobs that they hold in addition to attending class.

By Tuesday morning, more than two dozen adjuncts were on the picket line and some students said they had gotten conflicting messages: emails from professors canceling class and a letter from Kenneth Saunders, the college's acting president, telling them to report to class as usual.

Members of the NCC administration were taking attendance in classrooms and keeping track of how many adjuncts were observing the strike. Officials said they could not provide a number or a percentage of unstaffed classes by early evening.

Some students, including sophomore Chris Mahn, were worried about whether their financial aid packages could be affected. The administration did not respond to questions about any effect on financial aid or tuition refunds. Tuesday was the last day to drop or add a fall-semester class.

Mahn, 22, of Hicksville, who is seeking an associate degree in hospitality business, said his class titled "Social and Cultural Aspects of Food" was canceled.

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"I feel bad for the adjuncts but I feel worse for us," he said. "They aren't thinking about us. They are thinking about themselves."

About 55 percent of NCC courses are taught by adjuncts. About one-third of the AFA bargaining unit is comprised of full-time faculty who teach extra courses.

Saunders informed students of the strike through a letter posted on NCC's website. Students were instructed to attend class and told that college officials would be taking attendance.

"Remember, the college is open. Please continue to report to your classes as usual," Saunders wrote.

Saunders didn't return a phone call Tuesday seeking comment.

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