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Part-time professors at NCC angry over strike-related union fine

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 on Sept. 12, 2013. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

More than 30 part-time professors at Nassau Community College have filed complaints with the state over receiving a $1,000 union fine for not supporting a campuswide strike last year.

Letters went out to several hundred members of the Adjunct Faculty Association saying they owe the union $200 for each day they did not actively participate in the five-day job action -- the first at the Garden City college since 1982.

The strike, initiated by the union's longtime president, Charles Loiacono, led to the cancellation of classes during the second week of September 2013. The move was illegal under the state's Taylor Law, which prohibits job actions by public employees.

"The adjuncts are really angered over this. People are just furious," said union member Richard Erbin, who received a fine letter in September even though he was on pre-authorized leave from the college during the strike. "I never crossed the picket line, yet I've been called every name in the book by this guy."

Attorneys at the state Public Employment Relations Board are looking into 35 formal improper practice complaints filed by adjuncts against the union, executive director Anthony Zumbolo said. He declined to comment on the complaints.

The adjunct union's 1,200 members have been working without a contract for more than five years. Erbin and others have said they did not authorize the strike and were dissatisfied with the outcome.

The union began picketing Sept. 9, 2013 -- a Monday -- after the college's board of trustees did not approve a contract proposal that the union said would have raised their pay by 4.9 percent annually. They suspended the job action that Friday, less than 24 hours after acting president Kenneth Saunders said adjuncts could lose their jobs if they did not return to work the following Monday.

Since then, representatives of the AFA and the college administration have been back to the negotiating table only once, according to officials on both sides.

More than half of the classes at Nassau Community College are taught by adjunct professors. NCC has about 22,000 students and is the largest single-campus community college in the state.

Loiacono said the fine for not supporting the strike was included in the union's bylaws and it was his responsibility to remind members. He believes he and other union leaders have been maligned.

"They think it is OK to not support the strike and get the same benefits as everyone else," Loiacono said. "And they don't like being called freeloaders."

However, Loiacono said there was no specific definition of what constituted being in support of the strike. Adjuncts who reported to work but supported the strike by making a donation of time or money were not subject to the fine, he said.

"Some people could not afford to strike, we understand that. It seems nebulous or unspecific because there are many ways in which you can support the strike without actually being out on strike," he said.

Loiacono said there were "several hundred" adjuncts who fell into that category, but declined to provide any data. It is unclear how the union tracked whether or in what manner individual members supported the strike.

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