Sometimes you get to hit one out of the park–which is exactly what happened with the Improper Practice (IP) the NCCFT filed against the college regarding the administration’s decision to end the practice of giving people who have worked four consecutive semesters on a temporary contract all the rights of probationary status if they are hired for a fifth semester. We filed that IP on June 16, 2011 after learning from then-Executive Vice President Saunders of the administration’s intentions and on April 25, 2012 went to the Brooklyn PERB office for the hearing. The basic question before the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) was this: Had the practice of fourth-to-fifth-semester conversions been established at Nassau Community College long enough for it to be considered a “past practice,” one that–while not included in the collective bargaining agreement–had nonetheless become established as a condition of employment that faculty had a right to expect, almost as if it had contractual weight. The college, of course, argued that this was not the case. They were wrong. On September 10, 2012 we received notification that PERB ruled in our favor!
This ruling is significant for at least three reasons. First, and most importantly, nine (9) of our colleagues across this campus have been working on temporary contracts beyond their fourth semester and the college is now obligated to put them on probationary (tenure-track) lines. Second, the administration’s attempt to end this past practice was a not-very-subtle attack on tenure itself. After all, if the administration never has to move anyone from temporary to probationary status, it becomes that much easier for them to create a permanent class of temporary faculty. They were, in other words, trying to undermine tenure without having to touch the language of our contract. Third, we have the satisfaction of knowing that the administration is required to post publicly the notice that is attached to this email.
It’s important to recognize that, while we have won the case, it is appealable, and so we need to send a very strong message to the Board of Trustees that, especially given their expressed concerns about the college’s budget, they should not spend one more penny on this issue. They made their case; we made ours. They lost. It’s time to move on. If you are looking for something to talk about at the September 25th Board of Trustees meeting, this is an issue about which we need to make sure they understand we are very serious.
A great deal of very hard work went into winning this case. Debra DeSanto, NCCFT President was on the witness stand for a grueling ninety (90) minutes of questioning and Bruce Urquhart, Chair of the English Department, also testified. Our NYSUT Labor Relations Specialist, Claudia Shacter-deChabert, was especially instrumental in helping them prepare their testimony. They faced the Board of Trustees’ very high-priced law firm, Ingerman Smith LLP, represented by John Gross and Regina Cafarella. That they prevailed is testament not just to the strength of their leadership, but also their commitment and determination to preserve the quality and integrity of this institution. They deserve our congratulations and our thanks.