Manhattan College Adjunct Faculty Union (MCAFU)

Hearing Completed
MC's BOT Chairman Sheds Light on What Might Threaten
College's Catholic Culture and Identity

To the Manhattan College Community,

On November 19th, at the Labor Board hearing to determine whether or not the government has jurisdiction over Manhattan College in its adjunct faculty's attempts to have a union election, Thomas O'Malley, the Chairman of the College's Board of Trustees, testified as a rebuttal witness for the College. Mr. O'Malley was the last witness of the hearing and after his testimony the hearing was closed. The Labor Board agent then directed both the Union and the College to submit legal briefs by Friday, December 3rd.

Last week, Ms. Kehl, the College's attorney, petitioned the Labor Board for an extension. Her request for an extension was granted. Briefs are now due on Friday, December 10th. The complete transcripts of the hearing testimony are available, fyi, HERE .

And now for some good news. During his testimony, Mr. O'Malley, an extremely generous benefactor, discussed some of his history of donations to the College. In addition to testifying about his multi-million dollar donation that went toward building the library, Mr. O'Malley also testified about some more recent gifts he has arranged for the College. Ms. Kehl asked Mr. O'Malley if there was any restriction on his gifts and Mr. O'Malley replied that there were, "…yes, I put a restriction on it and other gifts, and that gift is going to be giving a million dollars a year starting in 2011, and in the event the college doesn't continue with its Catholic identity the gift is null and void, and I do that in writing." [Labor Board hearing transcript, P. 776]

During cross-examination we asked Mr. O'Malley if his gift would be null and void if the Labor Board asserted jurisdiction over the College and conducts a union election. Ms. Kehl objected to the question before Mr. O'Malley could answer it and we offered to ask a different question. We then asked Mr. O'Malley to give us some examples of what would constitute the loss of the College's Catholic identity. Mr. O'Malley replied: "… Certainly if the sacramental aspects – the availability of the Sacrament on the campus was to disappear for any reason, I would object vehemently to that. I would object if the school broke away from its association with the Catholic colleges and universities in the United States… if we were to get somebody in the leadership role of the college who basically said, 'Look, Catholicism is unimportant, and I want to change the character of the school,' then indeed I would object, I wouldn't want to support the school. I'm providing support based on what I believe the school is. If the school is to change radically then I – indeed I don't want to supply the school…" [Labor Board hearing transcript, P. 788]

We then asked Mr. O'Malley if he believed the school will change radically or if the Sacraments would become unavailable if the Labor Board asserts jurisdiction over the College. Again, Ms. Kehl objected to the question before Mr. O'Malley could answer it and Mr. Guerra, the Labor Board agent, sustained her objection (because Mr. O'Malley's answer would require him to give an opinion and theorize, rather than stick to demonstrable facts).

It's curious, though, that Ms. Kehl objected to Mr. O'Malley being given an opportunity to answer the question. Certainly, the hearing transcripts are rife with examples of other witnesses giving their opinions or theorizing without her objecting.

We suspect that the reason Ms. Kehl objected -- and the reason that at the November 11th meeting hosted by President O'Donnell for adjunct faculty, no member of the Administration was able to explain how a union election would threaten the College's Catholic identity -- is simply because… it won't. That is probably what Mr. O'Malley, under oath, would have said, and that is very likely why Ms. Kehl did not want him to answer the question.

All a union election threatens is the status quo of Manhattan College , a status quo where the Administration has the unilateral right to decide everything and anything about adjunct faculty members' jobs. Manhattan College adjunct faculty have spent months organizing a union because they want the same things millions of other unionized workers – including the College's unionized security guards and housekeeping staff in the dormitories – have. They want a voice on the job, they want an opportunity to negotiate a contract, they want to make Manhattan College an even better place to work and to learn.

Even though we expect the Labor Board to rule in favor of the Union (in large part because that's what happened a decade ago, when Manhattan College's fulltime faculty went through a similar hearing), it's not too late for President O'Donnell to direct his attorney to tell the Labor Board that the College wishes to withdraw its objection to Board jurisdiction. We have already stipulated to an agreement with the College as to who would be eligible to vote in a theoretical election, so if the College withdraws its objections, the Labor Board would be able to schedule a date for the vote almost immediately. Agreeing to an election would save the College money on additional legal fees, it would spare the College further embarrassment as more and more people in academia and the faith community hear about the College's attempts to use its Catholic identity as an excuse to avoid a union election, and perhaps most importantly, it would be the right path for the College to take -- a path consistent with its own mission of social justice.

Have you signed the petition to President O'Donnell and the Board of Trustees on this matter? Please see http://www.nyorganizing.org/manhattan/Petition.htm .

We will keep you informed of developments as they occur. We hope to have news for you as to a date for an election soon.

In Solidarity,
Daniel Esakoff-Julie Berman-Sam Rasiotis-Christina Hilo
Organizers
New York State United Teachers/American Federation of Teachers
212-989-3470

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Manhattan College Adjunct Faculty Union / NYSUT / AFT / NEA / AFL-CIO
339 Lafayette Street, Room 202, New York, NY 10012
phone: 212-989-3470; fax: 212-989-8154
email: organize@nysutmail.org