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NCC adjunct faculty union goes on strike

Adjunct Faculty Association members picket Monday outside the

Adjunct Faculty Association members picket Monday outside the Administrative Building at Nassau Community College in Garden City. (Sept 9, 2013) Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Nassau Community College adjunct faculty union went on strike Monday for the first time since 1982 after the school's board of trustees voted down a proposed contract settlement.

Some trustees said they had not helped to negotiate the proposed pact -- pointing to County Executive Edward Mangano's office as doing that -- and said it would take too heavy a toll on the 24,000-student college's financial resources.

Late Monday, the New York State Public Employment Relations Board announced it assigned a conciliator, at NCC's request, to help the college and the Adjunct Faculty Association resolve their differences. He was identified as attorney Howard Edelman of Rockville Centre.

The trustees, at a special meeting attended by six of the board's 10 members, voted down the proposed settlement, 3-3. After acting chairman  Jorge Gardyn announced the vote and some public discussion, the leader of the adjunct faculty union led his members from the room on the 11th floor of the administrative tower.

"Everyone, let's go," Charles Loiacono said. "Let's pick up the signs. We're on strike."

The 3,000-member union of adjuncts -- part-time faculty -- has been working without a contract since 2010. Loiacono said the membership voted in May to authorize a strike.

The defeated "memorandum of agreement" covered eight years. Loiacono said it was retroactive to 2011 and went through 2018, with wage increases of 4.9 percent each year, at a cumulative cost of $14.5 million.

NCC officials, however, said the total cost over the eight years was $63.4 million.

"If we approved this, tomorrow we'd have to write a check for $10 million, which would wipe out our fund balance," Gardyn said of the proposal.

Charges and countercharges flew after the meeting. Both trustee Edward Powers and Loiacono, in separate interviews, accused Nassau Democratic Party chairman Jay Jacobs of leaning on Democrats on the NCC board to not attend the meeting.

Jacobs strongly denied the allegations, saying of Loiacono, "He's wrong, and I'll await his apology."

Four of the six trustees at Monday's meeting talked with a reporter about the issues, adding that Mangano's office had brokered the memorandum without their input. That was a concern for some trustees, but not for others.

In addition to Gardyn and Powers, trustees attending the meeting were Anthony Cornachio, John DeGrace, Kathy Weiss and Jocelyn Molina, the student trustee.

The vote on the proposed contract was a secret ballot, Gardyn said. The only trustees who would say how they voted were Cornachio and Powers, who said they voted in support.

Loiacono said he approached Mangano to help resolve what he described as an impasse.

Gardyn said he had sought to continue negotiations. "I think the county executive's office was trying to help," he said. "But I don't think they had the full financial impact for the college, and we didn't ascertain that until our financial people investigated."

A press aide for Mangano released a statement from Peter Bee of Bee Ready Fishbein Hatter & Donovan, LLP, the county's outside labor counsel, which said, "Nassau Community College is responsible for governing itself and the county did not make any deal. The county simply encouraged the communications of both sides to avoid a strike that would greatly affect countless faculty and Nassau students. Local law places labor relations within the jurisdiction of the college."

A strike is illegal for public employees under the Taylor Law. Adjuncts are fined two days' pay for every day they strike.

Kenneth Saunders, the college's acting president, said administration officials will go to each class taught by adjuncts to determine which ones are teaching and which are on strike before deciding how or whether to cover the classes.

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