ITHACA, N.Y. — The National Labor Relations Board will investigate claims that Ithaca College retaliated against contingent faculty on the union bargaining committee. The college allegedly did not renew the contracts of all six bargaining committee members.
The Cornell Labor Law Clinic and Service Employees International Union, Local 200 United filed the unfair labor practice charge Tuesday with the National Labor Relations Board, according to their records.
In a statement, Ithaca College said it denies any violation of the National Labor Relations Act and “looks forward to cooperating with the NLRB in its investigation.”
Contingent faculty members announced the investigation Wednesday afternoon after another bargaining session. Members of the IC Contingent Faculty Union/Service Employees International Union, Local 200United have been bargaining with the college for more than a year. Part-time contingent faculty have been fighting for “equal pay for equal work” while full-time contingent faculty have been pushing for more job security.
Faculty said there will be an emergency bargaining session at 9 a.m. Thursday. If they do not make progress or see a “glimmer of hope,” they said a strike announcement may be coming at the end of the day.
In a statement, Ithaca College said another meeting has also been scheduled for March 15. The college said its bargaining team believes that progress continues to be made and “remains confident that through continued negotiations a contract agreement can be reached with the bargaining units representing part-time and full-time contingent faculty.”
In a statement, the Cornell Labor Law Clinic said “the timing of the decision of Ithaca College not to renew the contracts of all six of the bargaining committee members and related facts give rise to an inference of discriminatory animus. The charge specifically raises the claims of adverse action involving three vocal members of bargaining committee, Rachel Gunderson, David Kornreich and Shoshanna Cole and alleges violations of Sections 8(a)(1), (3) and (5) of the National Labor Relations Act. ”
Gunderson is a full-time contingent faculty member with two degrees from Ithaca College. At the press conference Wednesday she said she has worked for the college for six years with successful evaluations. Gunderson said she began to find that some of her classes were being cut or given away next semester. She said she is being given no chance to continue in the 2017-18 academic year.
“This is happening right after forming a union along with several other colleagues, many of whom did not receive an interview for better positions after six-plus years of service,” Gunderson said.
Through their union activity, Gunderson said faculty are trying to make Ithaca College a better place for students to learn and faculty to teach.
“Faculty should have the right to speak up, to make conditions better through our union without the fear of retaliation from our administration,” Gunderson said.
Dwight Mitchell, Jr., who was there on behalf of the Cornell Labor Law Clinic said they have successfully filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board against Ithaca College for allegedly engaging in unfair labor practices.
“We believe there is substantial evidence to succeed on this claim,” Mitchell said.
In 2010, David Kornreich, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, said he was a full-time professor with tenure at a college in California. However, he left that job to come to Ithaca and get married.
Since then, he has been teaching basic physics as a contingent faculty member at Ithaca College. He said every year his department tells him he does a great job and that they are working to get him a better job so he does not need to a reapply for his position year after year.
Kornreich said the department has been fighting to get him a continuing non-tenure position.
“But every year the administration would tell them no we don’t do that,” he said. “Until something finally happened this year, the year that we organized the union, the full timer union. This year, the year we did that, suddenly it was OK. Suddenly it was all right to replace my position with a continuing non-tenure track position, which of course I have to apply for.”
Kornreich did apply. However, he did not even get an interview, he said.
Megan Graham, assistant professor of writing, said they believe Kaufman and Kornreich’s jobs were eliminated in retaliation because full-time contingent faculty formed a union.
“We hope you understand how desperate and how immediate the need is to make change here,” Graham said.
Watch the full announcement via The Ithacan’s live stream.
Featured image: Contingent faculty rally in December. By Alyvia Covert/Ithaca Voice