P-Fac wrestles administration

By Senah Yeboah-Sampong

Two major developments in the ongoing battle between P-Fac, Columbia’s part-time faculty union, and the college administration were announced during summer break.

The first was a July 31 National Labor Relations Board ruling that upheld P-Fac allegations of unfair labor practices against the college. The complaint concluded the college refused to bargain collectively about the effects of prioritization and new contracts for adjunct faculty. According to Len Strazewski, interim associate provost and associate journalism professor, the administration contends that the prioritization process is at too premature a stage for any effect to manifest, let alone warrant discussion.

“The NLRB agrees with the union that the college is being obstructive,” said Nancy Traver, P-Fac publicity chair man and adjunct faculty member in the Journalism Department. “The NLRB ordered the college to … bargain a new contract in good faith and not just waste everybody’s time.”

The college will appeal the NLRB complaint in front of an administrative law judge Oct. 22, according to Strazewski. He also said the college has been cooperative with contract negotiations.

“We have never stopped bargaining in good faith, and the fact that we have a contract offer on the table that has not been responded to [by P-Fac] is evidence of that,” Strazewski said.

Traver termed the Dec. 2011 offer, “extremely regressive” and said P-Fac will not accept it. Although the contract offer did not raise adjuncts’ salaries, it did increase kill fees for cancelled classes and money for professional education and meeting attendence.

The NLRB amended the complaint on Aug. 29, adding allegations that Columbia denied Diana Vallera, P-Fac president and photography instructor, class assignments in retaliation for her union activity and NLRB testimony (see sidebar).

The second development was an NLRB decision by an administrative law judge July 17, that upheld P-Fac’s claims that the college did not adequately compensate adjunct faculty in the History, Humanities and Social Sciences Department, who had been denied a third class assignment for the spring 2011 semester. According to the decision, the college was within its rights when they rescheduled the classes, however, they failed to bargain in good faith with the affected adjuncts in the wake of the rescheduling.

The affected HHSS instructors are now entitled to back pay plus interest in the amount they would have been paid for the hours they were denied, according to the NLRB decision. Strazewski said the college plans on appealing the decision to the national office of the NLRB.

P-Fac and the administration disagree on the need for NLRB involvement. P-Fac sees NLRB leverage as critical to contract negotiations, while the administration sees it has a hindrance.

Each complaint ties up college resources and distracts from contract negotiations, Strazewski said. He also said the administration remains open to contract negotiations and P-Fac proposals.

For P-Fac, NLRB filings are one of the only ways to get the school’s attention  geared toward reaching a fair contract, Traver said.

Three contract bargaining sessions have  been held this summer and the next bargaining session is scheduled for Sept. 7.