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December 2018

 

Faculty rights are a myth: Change my mind
Kevin McCoy

 

  "Faculty rights are a myth: Change my mind" meme
 
The FA challenges anyone to try to change Kevin McCoy's mind when it comes to faculty members' rights to union representation. (meme by Cynthia Eaton)
   

As a long-time member of the Suffolk New York Civil Liberties Union, I have been committed to protecting the constitutional rights of Suffolk County residents. One of the basic rights provided by the United States Constitution is that people shall not be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of the law. In criminal cases this includes the right to legal representation. 

If you watch any of the popular crime shows, you have likely heard police informing the suspects of their Miranda rights when making the arrest, which includes the lines, "You have the right to have an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed to you by the court." The Miranda warning is a result of the landmark case Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona.

Now that I am the FA grievance officer, I have the same commitment to protecting the due process rights of our members. Faculty due process rights are protected under federal and state laws as well as by our collective bargaining agreement. In the NLRB v. J. Weingarten, Inc. decision, the National Labor Relations Board declared that union members have the right to ask for a union representation at a meeting if there is a chance that the meeting could lead to discipline.

This principle is reaffirmed in our collective bargaining agreement Article VI, Section 6.1, that states, "The faculty member shall have the right to an Association representative at all stages of the disciplinary procedure, including meeting with his/her immediate supervisor or other appropriate administrator in which discipline is likely to be the result."

We have found that many FA members and some administrators are not aware of these rights. If you are at a meeting with your immediate supervisor and/or college administration and you believe that the meeting could lead to discipline, you have the right to ask for a union representative. The administrator can either wait until a union representative can be found or reschedule the meeting with a union representative attending. As FA grievance officer, I urge you to use these rights. It is easy to get flustered at a meeting, and you may have difficulty remembering what was said after the meeting is over. A union representative can document what was said and make sure your due process rights are not violated.

FA members also have the right to have a peer observer when being observed by their academic chair or area supervisor. When scheduling an observation, the administrator must give full-time faculty at least 48 hours’ notice before an observation. Adjuncts should be notified at least one scheduled class period before the observation.

The academic chair or area supervisor is also required to notify the chair of the Peer Personnel Committee for the area; see page 6 of the promotion workshop packet for a list of names. The faculty member can either contact the chair or the Peer Personnel Committee or another faculty member in the department to be the peer observer at their observation. Adjuncts can contact Adjunct Coordinator Kim Ng Southard at kimn@fascc.org if they are having difficulty finding a peer observer.  

It is also important to note that federal and state law prevents employers from discouraging their employees from contacting their union or retaliating against their employee after they seek union representation. When you contact the FA, we will not take any action or contact college administration without your permission. Please feel free to contact us at any time. If your supervisor discourages you from contacting the FA, or if you feel like you are being retaliated for contacting the union, please let us know immediately. 

Finally, it is critical that you are a member of the FA to ensure that you continue to receive union representation. As a result of the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court case, unions are no longer permitted to collect agency fee from nonunion employees.  Due to recent changes to the New York State Taylor Law, nonmembers may not be guaranteed union representation when attending meetings or disciplinary hearings with administration. If you are unsure of your membership status, please call the union office at 631-451-4151 or send an email to info@fascc.org.

You have the rights: You should know them and use them. You won't change my mind on that.