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Editorial: Burden is on Nassau to stop college strike

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) Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Nassau Community College adjunct professors striking illegally in defiance of a court order are risking their jobs and hurting their students. It's time to return to work and to the bargaining table.

Acting Nassau Community College president Ken Saunders Thursday gave the teachers until this Monday to get back into the classroom. Saunders is already advertising for $60-an-hour replacements.

Monday's hastily called job action by Charles Loiacono, head of the Adjunct Faculty Association, came after an attempt by the Mangano administration to interject itself into the stalled negotiations. Traditionally, the unions bargain directly with the college; when a deal is reached, it's sent to the legislature and the county executive for approvals.

The process is designed to keep politics at bay. But Loiacono, frustrated with the scant progress since the union's contract expired in 2010, turned to Mangano earlier this month. Loiacano, in a newsletter, said "the county executive entered into good faith bargaining" with the union that ended in an "amicable agreement," which he says calls for annual 4.99 percent pay increases for eight years, including three years of retroactive pay hikes. That's insane.

Mangano's spokesman describes it differently: 1) Loiacono sent an agreement made three years ago with a former college president to Rob Walker, the deputy county executive; 2) Mangano did not negotiate or perform any financial analysis of it; 3) Mangano only "encouraged" trustees to avoid a strike. But Loiacono, who likes to broker the support of his union for elected officials, clearly feels he has a deal. When the union couldn't ram it past college trustees at Monday's meeting, Loiacano pulled the trigger on the strike, which members had voted for in May.

If Mangano didn't make a deal, then he should clearly disavow Loiacano's claim that one was made. That would restart the process and get teachers and students back in the classrooms.