NCC adjuncts defy court order, continue strike

Contract negotiations between Nassau Community College and its adjunct faculty continue during the strike, but unhappy students are showing up for class, only to find no professor. Videojournalist: Chris Ware (Sept. 11, 2013)

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Striking adjunct faculty members at Nassau Community College, in defiance of a court order to go back to work, walked a picket line Wednesday afternoon on the Garden City campus.

More than 40 people were on the picket line in the plaza outside the administrative tower, watched by the college's public safety officers, before disbanding shortly before 7 p.m.

"The strike is now just beginning to get momentum," said Charles Loiacono, president of the Adjunct Faculty Association, which represents more than 3,000 part-time instructors and professors. He said he had decided to concentrate picketing between the hours of 3:30 and 7:30 p.m., because many adjuncts teach night classes and have other commitments during the day.

The strike -- the first by adjunct faculty since 1982 -- began Monday after NCC's board of trustees rejected a proposed contract. On Tuesday, a State Supreme Court justice ordered the adjuncts back to work after the school's lawyer sought an injunction.

The union has been working without a contract since 2010. Loiacono said the eight-year pact that was voted down would have raised members' pay by 4.9 percent yearly.

Adjuncts teach about 55 percent of the courses at the 24,000-student college. They are paid from $1,090 to $1,750 per credit hour. The average adjunct teaches six credit hours per semester.

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Representatives of NCC and the union sat down last night with a conciliator appointed by the state Public Employment Relations Board, said Loiacono and acting college president Kenneth Saunders.

After a more than two-hour session at a Carle Place hotel, no agreement was reached.

Members of the board and Saunders attended. NCC's labor counsel John Gross said the union's attorney showed up, but union leadership did not.

"The college representatives and the union representatives came back and indicated that there is no further mediation scheduled, unfortunately," Gross said.

Gross, an attorney with the Ingerman Smith firm in Hauppauge who is NCC's labor counsel, said earlier he had attempted to set dates for contract negotiations, but that Loiacono was unavailable for two months -- July and August.When Loiacono returned, Gross said the union's attorney informed him the union was looking for a new proposal. Gross said he needed to consult with the board of trustees at their Sept. 17 meeting, but that the union wouldn't wait.

Loiacono has said the union went to County Executive Edward Mangano's office to broker the agreement because the board of trustees refused to negotiate -- an assertion he posted Wednesday on the union's website.

Saunders told reporters Wednesday afternoon he had "very rough numbers" on the strike's impact on Tuesday. He said about 16.5 percent of the adjunct's classes were not held.

"We're looking at maybe 129 sections out of approximately 900 offerings," he said. No figures were available for Wednesday.

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Asked what he would say to students who are concerned about canceled classes, Saunders said, "I would let them know we're equally concerned about that."

Melisa Orr, 23, of St. Albans, Queens, a health studies major, said two of her classes Wednesday had been canceled.

"This is the beginning of the school year," Orr said. "We need to be in class getting the education that we paid for."

Marcin Janiel, 24, of Lindenhurst, said two of his classes didn't take place Wednesday, and he hopes that the time will be made up later or that he'll get his tuition money refunded.

The Nassau Community College Federation of Teachers, which represents full-time faculty members, said in a statement on its website that it is "not engaging in a job action" and hopes that NCC trustees and Nassau County "work diligently" to reach agreements with both unions.

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With Patricia Kitchen, Candice Ferrette and Candice Ruud

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