Unprecedented lockout of LIU Brooklyn faculty ends

Two weeks after she initiated an unprecedented lockout of 400 faculty members at Long Island University Brooklyn, the university’s president Kimberly Cline suddenly reversed herself and ended the lockout.

“We have won a victory,” read a September 14 message from the leadership of the Long Island Faculty Federation (LIFF) to their members announcing the end of the lockout.

In addition to ending the lockout, Cline agreed to extend the union’s current collective bargaining agreement through May 31, 2017 and to engage a professional mediator to facilitate further negotiations.

One of the steps that Cline took to intimidate faculty members was to drop their health care coverage during the lockout. As part of the agreement to end the lockout, the university agreed to reimburse faculty members for health care costs incurred during the lockout.

The union said that it would continue to press for action against LIU Brooklyn on two unfair labor charges that it filed with the National Labor Relations Board.

In announcing the end of the lockout, the union said that faculty would begin teaching their classes on September 15.

The lockout began on September 2 after Cline abruptly announced that faculty members would be barred from teaching their classes or even from coming on campus.

At the time of her announcement, negotiations between LIU’s administration and LIFF were still in progress.

The negotiations, which began in the spring, had been difficult.

Cline insisted on maintaining the pay differential between faculty at LIU Brooklyn and its sister university LIU Post located in suburban Nassau County.

She also wanted to eliminate the university’s contributions to the Adjunct Benefits Trust Fund, which adjuncts may use to help them purchase health insurance, end seniority payments to adjuncts, and implement new scheduling rules that could have reduced the number of hours that adjuncts teach and their pay.

Additionally, Cline wanted to establish a two-tiered benefits system that would have reduced pension and health care benefits for faculty members hired after the proposed collective bargaining agreement went into effect.

The union held firm against accepting these steep concessions and continued to bargain.

The lockout caught the union leadership and members off guard.

When it was announced, Jessica Rosenberg, LIFF’s president called the lockout an “unprecedented act of aggression and hostility taken against our faculty and students” meant to bully faculty members into accepting an unacceptable new contract.

As soon as the lockout was announced, the union began organizing and mobilizing its members to fight back.

At a general membership meeting that previously had been called to discuss the negotiations, the union’s negotiating team provided information about the lockout and its consequences. Members received information about applying for unemployment compensation and alternatives to their newly canceled health insurance.

On September 7, the first day of class, union members rallied at the gates of the university.

Two days later they held a teach-in to explain to students the issues that led up to the lockout.

The administration tried to win over the students by blaming faculty for tuition increases.

The union criticized the hypocrisy of the administration for pretending to care about students’ education while hastily hiring replacement faculty and using administration employees to teach the classes during the lockout.

In the meantime, the union urged the public to show support for the faculty by phoning President Cline to demand that she end the lockout immediately.

Locked out faculty received a boost when their colleagues at LIU Post voted for a resolution of no confidence in President Cline.

“This no-confidence resolution highlights concerns of the faculty related to the negative impact on campus services and the university’s reputation as a result of President Cline’s handling of contract negotiations with the LIU Brooklyn faculty,” said John Lutz, vice chair of the LIU Post Faculty Council in a statement issued by the council.

“President Cline’s actions reflect a disinvestment in academics and student needs and that the decision to lock out the LIU Brooklyn faculty compromises the integrity and proper functioning of LIU programs, including those at LIU Post,” continued Lutz.

Students at LIU Brooklyn also expressed their displeasure with Cline when they staged a noisy walkout to protest the lockout.

The lockout ended as suddenly as it began with a lot of questions still unanswered.

As soon as the lockout ended, the union announced a general membership meeting so that members could hear from the negotiating team and ask questions about “the next steps in our struggle.”

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