Rats! LIU locks out Brooklyn professors after refusing to pay same wages as Long Island

Strong coalition: Hundreds of faculty, union members, students, and a giant inflatable diseased rat gathered outside the university, chanting, marching, and holding up signs.
Photo by Jordan Rathkopf

Long Island University must pay professors at its Brooklyn campus the same rate as their Long Island counterparts, the stiffed staffers demanded while rallying outside the Flatbush Avenue college on the first day of classes on Wednesday.

The school locked the academics out of the Downtown campus and nixed their health insurance after contract negotiations failed last week, and the exiled pedagogues say they’ll picket the property every day until they’re given equal wages and let back into their classrooms.

“This feels like my place, and they told me I can’t come back,” said Emily Drabinski, an associate professor and one of the school’s 12 librarians. “I’m outraged and I’ll be out here until we win.”

The university barred unionized members of the Long Island University Faculty Federation from entering place of learning after their five-year contracts expired last week and they say the school refused to meet their demands for the same wages and benefits as staffers working at the Brookville campus.

The union members rejected the latest contract offer on Tuesday afternoon by a vote of 226–10.

The college was offering a minimum salary of $80,000 for new hires in Kings County, compared to $96,000 in Nassau County, according to a spokeswoman from the federation. Around half of the full-time Brooklyn faculty makes 20 percent less than staff at the Long Island campus, she claimed.

The school’s vice president and counsel Gale Haynes blamed the disparity on choices the union previously made about how to divvy up wage increases amongst the faculty, and said it locked the professors out to prevent a strike — although the end result does not appear to be all that different.

In the meantime, the institution is using non-union staffers and has put up job ads for temporary teachers to cover the exiled educationists’ classes, but one student says she’s not interested in learning from last-minute replacements and wants the mind-sculptors that she had paid for.

“We’re upset about how much tuition we’re paying and now they’re giving us unqualified teachers to take over,” said a student who identified herself only as Mariel out of fear of being targeted by university administration. “There’s very well-respected professors who deserve higher pay and they don’t deserve what’s happening to them right now.”

Union organizers erected a customary giant inflatable rat — known as “Scabby” — out the front of the university to highlight the nonunion laboring going on inside.

One longtime professor said she was both shocked and saddened to see the school had resorted to such drastic measures.

“I’ve never seen anything like this, such aggression against the faculty from the administration,” said Stephanie Porcelli, who had been teaching biology for 25 years and attended the school as an undergraduate. “I’m more sad than angry — I don’t like seeing them ruining my school.”

Union leaders are expected to sit down with administration for another round of negotiations on Thursday.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill

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