in: News & Features

January 2, 2011

Update on Longy Labor Dispute

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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.

(Signed by)
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

15 Comments

  1. Based on what I’ve read it seems that Longy has to be dragged kicking and screaming to obey the law as it relates to collective bargaining.

    Longy admits that on February 1, 2010, the union became the collective bargaining representative of the faculty. (The NLRB says it was as of the date of the election, rather than the Feb. 1 date of certification.) At that point, Longy knew that they had an obligation to bargain in good faith with the union over terms and conditions of employment. On March 5, they announced changes in terms and conditions of employment which they intended to implement — not which they had already implemented — without bargaining as required by law. Still later they unilaterally implemented the changes without bargaining as required by law. It is hard to imagine that they can get away with this, and it’s hard to understand how their lawyers think they have a reasonable case for getting away with it. But employers are often resentful when employees decide to unionize, and they are tempted to try to evade their responsibilities under the law. They have been accustomed to having free reign in making decisions for the enterprise, and they often believe that their decisions have been best for all concerned and that union “interference” will only make matters worse for all concerned. So they drag their feet in fulfilling their obligations.

    This is fascinating stuff. Thanks for publishing.

    Comment by Joe Whipple — January 2, 2011 at 11:07 pm

  2. As a “member” of the Longy Faculty Union do you actually have any say how we are represented by the LFU. It just seems like a never ending personal battle between the same LFU officers and the Longy administration. There hasn’t been a LFU members meeting since June of last year?

    Comment by Evaristo Felice Dall'Abaco — January 3, 2011 at 9:39 pm

  3. This is a blatant lie by a fictitious person.

    First, the LFU officers were elected by the bargaining unit members to represent them.

    Second, we have had numerous meetings of union members and bargaining unit members, all of which are announced in the LFU newsletter and elsewhere.

    Third, we publish a newsletter that comes out on a regular basis (18 issues to date starting in April) filled with contact information for all the LFU Board members (http://bit.ly/lfuNews).

    Fourth, we have had several events (house parties, gatherings and the like) to which all bargaining unit members and others have been invited.

    Fifth, we provide regular “Virtual Office Hours” when bargaining unit members can call LFU Board members on the phone.

    Sixth, we have provided forums on the LFU website (http://longyfacultyunion.org/, a Facebook site (http://facebook.com/longyfacultyunion), Twitter (http://twitter.com/longyfacunion), email addresses, and regular email and telephone contact with the entire bargaining unit.

    Seventh, there is an upcoming Special Meeting open to all bargaining unit members that has been announced in both of the last two issues of LFU News: “Tuesday, January 11, 8-9:30 PM, Special Meeting open to all collective bargaining unit faculty, Room 2 (Wolfinsohn)”

    Interestingly, there is nobody named “Evaristo Felice Dall’Abaco” on the Longy faculty. So who exactly are you? And why are you making blatantly false statements in this public forum?

    Comment by Jonathan Cohler — January 5, 2011 at 12:08 am

  4. I should also note that the minutes of ALL our meetings (Board, Membership, and Special) are published on our website for everyone to see. You can access them here: http://www.longyfacultyunion.org/lfu-meeting-minutes.html

    As you can see, there were Membership (Union members) and Special (bargaining unit members) meetings on the following dates since the certification of the Union: 4/11/10, 5/6/10, 6/11/10, 7/16/10, 11/16/10. And, as mentioned, the next Special Meeting is scheduled for 1/11/11.

    This, of course, doesn’t mention the numerous meetings held prior to certification of the Union on 2/1/10.

    Comment by Jonathan Cohler — January 5, 2011 at 12:21 am

  5. Eighth, This is how a Member of the Longy Faculty Union Board respond’s? I feel more intimidated by the Union than I ever did by the Administration. I truly was hoping for a Union that was open to hearing all views not just those of the Board. This is from your own website, I wasn’t considering Board Meetings to be open. Forgive me for not understanding all these other meetings. I stopped going after being yelled at once too many times.

    · Special Meeting Minutes 11/16/2010
    · Board Meeting Minutes 11/16/2010
    · Board Meeting Minutes 11/08/2010
    · Board Meeting Minutes 10/19/2010
    · Board Meeting Minutes 9/27/2010
    · Board Meeting Minutes 9/14/2010
    · Board Meeting Minutes 8/25/2010
    · Board Meeting Minutes 7/27/2010
    · Special Meeting Minutes 7/16/2010
    · Board Meeting Minutes 7/16/2010
    · Membership Meeting Minutes 6/11/2010
    · Board Meeting Minutes 6/11/2010
    · Board Meeting Minutes 5/21/2010
    · Special Meeting Minutes 5/6/2010
    · Membership Meeting Minutes 4/11/2010

    Comment by Evaristo Felice Dall'Abaco — January 5, 2011 at 9:07 pm

  6. All the meetings are announced. No yelling involved. Each meeting says explicitly on the invitation emails, phone calls, and newsletter who is invited.

    The Board Meetings are for the Board.

    The Membership Meetings are for members of the Union.

    Just for future reference FYI, the Special Meetings are for all members of the Bargaining Unit.

    And feedback from faculty is always welcome! Our union is a democratic organization where all voices are heard. As our slogan says, “Here for one another and here for Longy”. Hope to see you at the upcoming Special Meeting on January 11 whoever you are.

    Comment by Jonathan Cohler — January 6, 2011 at 1:44 am

  7. Everisto, you are not alone. By my estimate there were only about 5 people at the “special meetings” who were not on a Union Committee or a Union Board Member. Not allot of “voices” given a collective bargaining unit of about 90 people.

    And yes, regardless of the unfortunate statement by a Longy Faculty Union Board Member here, you are correct. Although there have been Board Meetings and Special Meetings there has not been a Members Meeting since last June.

    Comment by Eguchi Takaya — January 6, 2011 at 11:12 am

  8. The Special Meetings are for Bargaining Unit members. The Union members are a subset of the Bargaining Unit.

    So all the Special Meetings include the entire membership.

    So it is disingenuous to say there have been no membership meetings since last June. All the Special Meetings ARE Membership meetings as well, by definition, as they include the entire Membership as well as Bargaining Unit members who are not members of the Union.

    It’s strange, but there is also nobody on the Longy faculty by the name Eguchi Takaya, according to the Longy website. Are you a member of Bargaining Unit? If so, you are not on our lists, but we would welcome your participation in our meetings!

    Comment by Jonathan Cohler — January 6, 2011 at 2:43 pm

  9. Jonathan,

    You can learn more about the real Evaristo Felice Dall’Abaco here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evaristo_Felice_Dall'Abaco

    And you can learn about Takaya Eguchi here: http://www.amazon.com/Creative-Methodology-Influence-creation-ebook/dp/B003FMUYJW

    Signor Dall’Abaco died in 1742, and Eguchi-sensei died in 1977. So I doubt that either is a member of your bargaining unit.

    Comment by César Cui — January 6, 2011 at 7:19 pm

  10. César,

    Yes, I did note the interesting coincidence of names on Wikipedia myself! :-)

    Please give my regards to Modest, Nikolai, Alexander, and, of course, Mily!

    Comment by Jonathan Cohler — January 6, 2011 at 11:45 pm

  11. If I were a faculty member who felt intimidated by the union, I wouldn’t give my real name either.

    Comment by Marc Lorra — January 7, 2011 at 8:35 pm

  12. And how exactly is it that the union “intimidates”? By providing open forums, encouraging democratic participation, being completely open about everything, and communicating on a regular basis with all its members, potential members, and the entire community at large? Such nonsense…

    Comment by Jonathan Cohler — January 8, 2011 at 1:17 am

  13. See how quickly you just dismissed my comment as “nonsense?” My understanding from some of your members is that they feel you dismiss their opinions just as easily, which is why they feel intimidated. Bullies tend not to recognize their behavior as bullying.

    Comment by Marc Lorra — January 8, 2011 at 3:15 pm

  14. Any updates? Wasn’t the big hearing supposed to have happened by now?

    Comment by Balakirev — March 6, 2011 at 11:42 am

  15. We’re promised an update, “Soon, very soon.”

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — March 6, 2011 at 1:35 pm

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