Long Island University-Brooklyn teachers break lockout

From the November-December 2016 issue of News & Letters

Brooklyn, N.Y.—When the administration of Long Island University-Brooklyn (LIU-B) locked out teachers and staff in early September, they didn’t count on the determination and united resistance of the professors, the rest of the teaching staff and the students. But that is exactly what they got: students and teachers together on the picket lines and at rallies.

STUDENTS REJECTED SCABS

Students were vocal in complaining about the low quality of the scabs that had been hired to take the place of their teachers. Although New York City currently has a glut of overeducated people who cannot find work in this job market, few if any crossed the picket lines.

The University was forced to use unqualified personnel to handle the classes, and students reacted in anger.

The whole affair came to a climax on Sept. 14 when administrators buckled under the pressure. They agreed to end the lockout and extend contract negotiations until next May.

IVORY TOWER ORGANIZING

The defeat of the lockout at LIU-B, combined with the recent National Labor Relations Board decision allowing graduate students at universities to unionize as the workers that they actually are, is evidence that the U.S. labor movement has opened a new front: the battle for workers’ rights in the halls of academia. Faculty at the University of Pennsylvania walked out in late October, again with strong student support.

Harvard University used the same tactic of trying to turn students against strikers when workers in the university cafeterias and dining halls walked out. Students had said they were willing to put up with the strike’s inconveniences if the result was justice for food-staff workers.

STUDENTS NO LONGER SCABS

Students were a constant presence on the picket line in the 22-day strike. Under pressure from both workers and students, Harvard agreed to pay workers at least $35,000 a year and cover medical co-payments until 2021. Dining service employees voted 573-1 to accept the contract.

—Natalia Spiegel

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