On Feb. 9, it was late, well past 8:00 p.m., when the Nassau Community College trustees gathered for the 7:00 public session of their monthly meeting, but the crowd of faculty and students that filled the room remained in good spirits, buoyed by spontaneous speeches of students while they waited. The crowd were rallying for a fair contract for full-time faculty, who have been working without a contract since Sept 1, 2022. Faculty stated that at a time of high inflation, soaring housing and transportation costs, years of contracts with wage freezes or mere 1.1% wage increase, faculty wages have simply not kept up with the cost of living in Nassau County.
In the words of NCCFT President Faren Siminoff, “Faculty have sacrificed for the College for over a decade. It’s time the College acknowledges this, and it can start by giving us a fair contract.” Speakers emphasized the plight of “junior” faculty, those hired after 2014; their first year salaries are below $60,000. Modest salaries are further reduced by mandatory 6% contributions into pensions, and 15% contributions into health insurance premiums — which, if combined with a pay reduction to cover health insurance premium increases which the College announced to the union in January — would total about $10,000 for family coverage in the New York State Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP) Empire Plan– and even more if the faculty member is enrolled in the Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance plan
Faculty shared that these low starting salaries are leading to difficulty in attracting qualified applicants. Biology Chair Christine Tuaillion stated that the full-time faculty union (NCCFT) had been willing to allow recent job applicants to start at a higher position in order to earn more, but the College refused; as a result, the applicant turned down NCC as coming here would have amounted to a $15,000 cut in earnings. One junior faculty member shared that she has educational loans from graduate school to repay and “our salary simply does not cover the bills.”
One prominent sign asked people to write a letter to County legislators and the County and displayed a QR code; the NCCFT letter campaign asks the County, the faculty’s co-employer, to do all in their power to bring about a fair contract. Haven’t yet sent a letter? You can do so, by clicking here.
NCC faculty were sent a letter in mid December asking us to choose our health insurance. In full faith, I and my colleagues chose health insurance based on the choices delineated in that letter. Had we had known about the premium increase, it’s likely I, and many of others would have switched. After 32 years of serving this college, for the first time ever, I’m am now worried about paying a health insurance premium increase, while also trying to survive on Long Island with what ends up being a pay cut.
The negotiating team must demand that the initial letter be considered a commitment, insist the premium increase for a year be assumed by the College — and then give all of us the opportunity to choose a health plan that would be more affordable, next year.
The Board of Trustees cannot ignore that faculty were given a choice without the premium increase noted, an increase that if we knew, we would have chosen differently. The initial December letter should hold some weight as far as the College’s trustworthiness. In fairness, at least the BOT should agree that the College assume the premium increase for a year, then next year, give faculty the opportunity to choose again. Faculty should not be held to a commitment that if we had known in December, we never would have made.