On January 24th, the amended consolidated complaint issued by the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board against the Longy School of Music will receive a formal hearing before an NLRB administrative law judge. Early in December BMInt began its coverage of disputes within the Longy School of Music faculty and between the Longy Faculty Union and the Longy administration. During interviews for our article BMInt offered to publish extended op-ed pieces from spokesmen for the opposing sides. BMInt recently received the following responses from the Longy Faculty Union and the Longy Administration:
No War of Words from Longy
by Kalen Ratzlaff, Longy Chief of Staff
While Longy understands that there are differing opinions regarding the issues in which the School is currently involved, we are not interested in fighting a war of words in the press. We are much more interested in focusing our energies on making music, on our students and our programs, and on working together with the faculty, both inside and outside the union, to make the School the best it can be. [Longy’s formal response to the NLRB complaint is here]
Longy Faculty Union Cites Government Backing
An Op-Ed Piece by the Longy Faculty Union
The headline of Lee Eiseman’s article in the December 4, 2010 issue of BMInt is “Longy Faculty Divided.” Differences of opinion among faculty can be usual and healthy, and there have indeed been differences recently; but the real conflict during the past two years has been between the administration’s practices and the faculty’s reasonable expectation that they would be treated respectfully in accordance with established precedent and, after the formation of the Longy Faculty Union, by laws governing union-management relations.
Shortly after a new administration was approved by Longy’s Board of Trustees, changes began to occur. These changes — of policies, procedures, and perhaps especially, of the overall tone of interpersonal relations — suggested that the administration was no longer giving due consideration to the voice of the faculty. Some faculty became concerned and began to consider forming a union as a possible response. Faculty talked with friends and colleagues, formed and sometimes changed views, and consulted with others about the benefits and drawbacks of establishing a union at a small school like Longy to guarantee that the faculty’s views would be heard.
Longy faculty had been, over many years, a heterogeneous group of talented professionals who enjoyed working together despite sometimes crowded or frustrating conditions in the two Longy buildings. Faculty remuneration was outlined in straightforward “compensation agreements” between faculty members and Longy. Over the years, working together for their common good to supplement the compensation agreements, Longy faculty had recommended a set of procedures for setting compensation rates, scheduling, promotion, and benefits. These had been approved by past administrations and formalized in Longy’s Faculty Handbook and other documents.
One of the early actions of Longy’s new administration was to dismiss the existing Faculty Handbook. The new administration discarded or “suspended” long-established policies and generally made it clear that it would ignore established practice and would brook no criticism for doing so. Longy faculty realized that although the Faculty Handbook had been appropriate in a collegial atmosphere in which relations between faculty and administration remained cordial, the current circumstances required a document with the force of law behind it — that is, something like a union contract.
Accordingly, faculty members began a drive to unionize, following procedures set out by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to obtain and submit signatures from faculty in favor of a union election and to obtain authorization for an election. As the union election drew closer, the Longy Board of Trustees continued to research and weigh plans for shaping a sustainable future for the school. A chronology of Board deliberations [see “Oh what a tangled web”, LFU News Vol. 1 No. 17, December 27, 2010] shows discussion of two possible approaches: internal restructuring or partnership with another institution.
For some members of the administration, the unionization effort seems to have been a convenient scapegoat. At considerable expense, Longy administration hired a law firm known for its union-busting expertise and put up a considerable anti-union effort before losing the election. By a large majority of eligible voters, the Union was voted in, and the NLRB certified the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, AFL-CIO as our exclusive collective-bargaining representative.
In justifying the faculty cuts made by Longy, Longy Chief of Staff Kalen Ratzlaff points out (in the December 4 article) that some of the “realigned” faculty taught for very few hours or had very few students at Longy. This was for at least two very good reasons.
First, Longy was small enough that individual students could pursue specialties or side interests, so it made sense to have specialists available for students who wished to study with them. For example, Michael Collver was available to teach male countertenors or cornetto players — neither a high-population group at Longy.
Second, prior administrations had apparently seen the benefit of retaining highly accomplished faculty, even those whose professional or personal schedules permitted them to be there only on a limited schedule. In turn, these faculty members were proud of their Longy association; many had been teaching at the school for decades and had enthusiastically donated services to the school to help add to the vitality of the school’s programs and recruit students. Longy faculty were paid only for students or classes that they actually taught in any given semester and for some committee work done in Longy’s service. Longy benefited from having a full roster of specialists and busy professionals on its roster.
After the Union had been certified, the administration — whatever its feelings toward the Union — was legally obligated to bargain with the Union over any changes that might affect terms or conditions of employment for “bargaining unit” members (those faculty members who meet the NLRB-certified criteria for Union membership) and to negotiate in good faith with Union representatives in an effort to agree on a contract.
Instead, before agreeing to its first negotiating session with the Union, the administration unilaterally announced major changes in faculty assignments, jettisoning some long-term faculty and limiting others as to what or whom they could teach. Since those changes were announced, the administration has wasted negotiating time with frivolous discussions, with shuffled schedules, and by failing or refusing to negotiate in good faith, according to the NLRB’s complaints. Apparently the administration has been attempting to “run out the clock,” hoping that Longy faculty would turn against the Union if it proved unable to show anything for its efforts.
Clearly, the Longy administration has violated faculty rights, as outlined in a substantial and well-established body of laws governing relations between unions and management. In fact, the violations have been so severe that the Federal Government has stepped in: the NLRB has issued two complaints against Longy citing numerous unfair labor practices. The hearing of the case is set to begin on January 24, 2011.
Furthermore, due to the severity of the alleged violations, the NLRB has filed a highly unusual Petition for Injunction, pending the outcome of the full hearing and eventual appeals, to require Longy to begin immediately to bargain in good faith to reinstate faculty to their previous positions, if those faculty wish to be reinstated, and to fulfill other conditions enumerated by the NLRB. The NLRB argues that “Longy has been engaging in unfair labor practices since the very inception of its collective-bargaining relationship with the Union” and that Longy’s actions — and its inaction at the bargaining table — could irreparably harm the Union and its members and, ultimately, the public interest.
Longy faculty formed a union so that we could exercise our right to collective bargaining. The Longy administration has systematically violated this right; the NLRB claims that “Longy has acted in near total derogation of its legal obligations [emphasis added] following its employees’ selection of the Union.” We are grateful that the NLRB trial and injunction proceedings seek to restore our rights. Our aim is to negotiate a collective-bargaining agreement that protects our faculty, our students, and our school.
Clayton Hoener, LFU President
Elizabeth Anker, LFU Vice President
Shizue Sano, LFU Treasurer
Deborah Yardley Beers, LFU Secretary
Jonathan Cohler, LFU Board Member
Erik Entwistle, LFU Board Member
Peter Evans, LFU Board Member
Ken Pierce, LFU Member