SLU LM meeting 02/13/24

The meeting began with one of our coworkers setting the tone and a reminder that the labor school can be a model based on shared vision and values. About 30 SLU workers attended this meeting, creating a nice red visual field with our zoom backgrounds, and we covered five major areas.

Starting with health and safety issues, we brought to management’s attention the ongoing waterbug infestation, particularly in the kitchen areas of the 10th and other floors. Management said that the extermination company comes every three months, and that they will bring them back more often if needed. We also spoke about weather and environmental emergencies, noting the improvement in how the schools has been addressing these in the past months. We noted that on recent occasions, the School of Public Heath went entirely remote while our workers were told to ask their supervisors if they had concerns, which is not adequate. Moreover, there has not been enough support extended specifically to faculty and students who might be traveling to, from, or be in class during emergency conditions. Management insisted that flexibility rather than codified policy was in everyone’s best interests and that the existing policy is lenient. They also said that they will policies and procedures that affect faculty and students and will get back to us.

Next, we returned to the staff daily attendance, a thorn in the side of many of our staff colleagues. We reiterated that everyone already reports where they are to their supervisors, and that the email that goes to everyone multiple times a day is onerous and is contributing to poor morale. We asked where else is attendance done in this matter and is there data on the effectiveness of this practice. We also asked upper management to add themselves to daily attendance. As in the past, management said this is a reasonable practice and that it’s needed because some people are abusing the system. There was a bit of pushback about adding upper management to daily attendance, although the reasons given (constantly changing schedules) are quite similar to the reasons why it is onerous for staff. Dean Mantsios noted that it was fair enough to ask them to be part of it.

The third topic we discussed was space issues, focusing on the lack of spaces that are essentially to serving our students. We spoke about the needs of the pre-college students, who need spaces to connect and build a school community, as well as adequate computers and library access. We spoke about the lack of private office space for adjuncts, who have to meet with (sometimes distressed) students in the open hallways. Student-facing staff reiterated how difficult it is to meet with students without safe private spaces, and how this even affects zoom meetings. We emphasized that the Learning Hub needs a permanent home. Management agreed to a meeting with student-facing staff to collaborate on solving space issues. They also expressed willingness to purchases more computers and to look into private space for adjuncts.

There are too many contingent workers across CUNY – people who are hired semester-to-semester (or even less!) and cannot access job security or count on benefits. SLU has a high proportion of contingent workers (e.g. adjuncts and non-teaching adjuncts (NTAs)) performing vital functions, which does seem hypocritical for a labor school. We spoke about the unusually high numbers of NTA at SLU and made a request for information that will allow us to evaluate the potential to transition some of these workers to permanent titles. We noted that the growing pre-college programs that bring us so much enrollment are entirely adjunct taught, and that it has been months since the faculty strongly recommended hiring a fulltime faculty to anchor those programs. Finally, we noted that SLU needs to consider a more full-time model for running the Learning Hub. Contingent labor is not just bad for the workers, it also affects our students’ experiences at the school. Management did not commit to providing the information about NTAs but would discuss with the personnel and budget committee. They argued that the higher than average ratio of contingent workers to fulltime workers at SLU is warranted because most NTAs are in worker education and the funding is external, so it is not possible to hire fulltime workers. They said that in some cases, three workers are needed at the same time and it would not work to have one fulltimer instead. Regarding the delays in faculty hiring, they said they were in negotiations with the chairs, and pointed out that an existing faculty could be moved to the pre-college programs. We have very few fulltime faculty who are stretched thin between multiple programs and no one with the expertise of education high school students. Management mentioned that they have started talking to the Learning Hub about a more fulltime model.

The final issue on the agenda was payment issues. These were many: many-month-long delays in getting paid, people’s pay not matching appointment letter or approved budget, very late appointment letters, breach of contract in denying health insurance coverage. Management appeared contrite and notably blamed the workers themselves less than in previous meetings. They said they are working on systems and guidance that will prevent such problems from happening, learning from these mistakes. Fulltime faculty will now be paid through stipends in the summer (which was already stipulated in our contract). The summer 2023 NTA hour pay differential is expected to be paid in late March or early April. Management will add material to the faculty handbook to facilitate NTA timesheet processing – which we noted is already automatically delayed 4-5 weeks as it is processed through the state. Management stated that the health insurance and appointment letter/pay discrepancies for substitute positions have been resolved. Directly affected coworkers spoke bravely on how these problems have affected them and their ability to teach out students. We look forward to the day that people are paid fairly and on time at the labor school.