Motion to Stay in P-Fac case denied, case continues normally

By Connor Carynski, Campus Reporter

A motion from National Labor Relations Board to delay an ongoing case between Columbia and its part-time faculty union was denied March 15 by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Mike Persoon, an attorney at Despres, Schwartz & Geoghegan, Ltd. who represents P-Fac, said if the NLRB motion had been approved, the case could have been delayed for up to five years and would be decided in a federal court.

The dispute between P-Fac and Columbia began after President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim signed the union’s current contract during the Fall 2013 Semester. P-Fac’s interpretation of its contract excluded full-time staff from teaching part-time classes, an opportunity they were granted until the creation of the contract.

P-Fac is currently trying to enforce the ruling of an arbitrator, who ruled Jan. 11 that Columbia violated P-Fac’s contract when it allowed full-time staff members to teach part time when they were not members of the adjuncts’ collective bargaining unit. The arbitration requires Columbia to pay what P-Fac estimated to be a $500,000 award to union members who lost teaching assignments to full-time staff members, as reported Feb. 20 by The Chronicle. On Jan. 23, P-Fac filed a suit against Columbia to enforce the arbitration.

“We’re disappointed we had to file a lawsuit to enforce a final and binding arbitration award, and we would hope that the college honors the arbitration process in the future, but we are pleased that it will be moving to a [final] decision,” Persoon said.

Columbia responded on Jan. 26 by moving to set aside the arbitration ruling and rely on a conflicting NLRB ruling from August 2016 that stated P-Fac must accept full-time staff members who teach part-time as members, as reported Sept. 19, 2016, by The Chronicle.

In order to enforce its decision and avoid conflicting results with P-Fac’s arbitrator in court, the NLRB filed a motion to intervene in the case on Feb. 17, which was denied March 15. While Columbia consented to the NLRB’s motion to intervene, P-Fac opposed it.

Tanya Harasym, operations coordinator for the Learning Center and adjunct professor in the Humanities, History & Social Sciences and English departments who represents full-time staff who teach, said in a March 29 email declined to comment and said she knew little about the development. 

P-Fac president and adjunct professor in the Photography Department Diana Vallera said in a March 30 emailed statement that the case will continue normally because of the denial of the NLRB’s motion to stay.

“‘Normal’ in this case means a very limited briefing to determine if there is some reason that the arbitration was essentially illegal,” Vallera said in the statement. “If it was not, the law says the arbitration should be enforced. It is a daunting standard for the college to overcome.”

In the statement, Vallera added that the NLRB will not take a position on the merits of the case, and P-Fac is pleased the case will continue without further interruptions.

A March 28 emailed statement from the NLRB’s Office of Congressional and Public Affairs said the NLRB has no comment on the denial of its motion.

Persoon said P-Fac and Columbia will file briefs and wait for the judge to reach a verdict in the case.

College spokeswoman Anjali Julka said in a March 29 statement on behalf of Terence Smith, the college’s special counsel for labor relations, the District Court has established a new briefing schedule for the case, which will decide whether the arbitration award is to be paid or vacated. The filings for the case are due on May 1.

“I just hope the college honors future [situations],” Vallera said. “We have other grievances, and we don’t want to have to go through this every time we want to implement an arbitration ruling.”

Corrections made April 6, 2017.

“A motion from National Labor Relations Board to intervene in an ongoing case between Columbia and its part-time faculty union was denied March 15 by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois,” was changed to…

“A motion from National Labor Relations Board to delay an ongoing case between Columbia and its part-time faculty union was denied March 15 by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.”

“The arbitration requires Columbia to pay an estimated $500,000 award to union members who lost teaching assignments to full-time staff members, as reported Feb. 27 by The Chronicle,” was changed to…

“The arbitration requires Columbia to pay what P-Fac estimated to be a $500,000 award to union members who lost teaching assignments to full-time staff members, as reported Feb. 20 by The Chronicle.”

“The contract excluded full-time staff from teaching part-time classes, an opportunity they were granted until the creation of the contract,” was changed to…

“P-Fac’s interpretation of its contract excluded full-time staff from teaching part-time classes, an opportunity they were granted until the creation of the contract.”

“P-Fac president and adjunct professor in the Photography Department Diana Vallera said in a March 30 emailed statement that the case will continue normally because of the denial of the NLRB’s motion to intervene,” was changed to…

“P-Fac president and adjunct professor in the Photography Department Diana Vallera said in a March 30 emailed statement that the case will continue normally because of the denial of the NLRB’s motion to stay.”

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