1104 Graduate Students Making Headlines

The following stories were recently published by the Long Island Business News



Protestors Disrupt ACIT Luncheon
April 23, 2010 by Ambrose Clancy

Nancy Zimpher got the silent treatment from protesting union members this afternoon. Zimpher, chancellor of the State University of New York, was speaking at a luncheon held by the Advancement for Commerce, Industry and Technology at the Melville Marriott when six Stony Brook research assistants stood and silently held red placards identifying their union's local. Zimpher never acknowledged the red-shirted protesters, who had paid $165 each to attend the function, a humanitarian awards presentation. The union's protest was over money and what they term foot-dragging on SUNY's part to come to an agreement on other issues. Margaret Buzzell, executive director of ACIT, approached the standing protesters with security personnel as Zimpher continued to speak and asked them to sit down. They told her they would "make a racket if they were removed," then took their seats but held their signs above their heads. Later the group handed out fliers accusing SUNY of paying them "poverty wages" and exploiting them.




Stony Brook locks out leaders, union
April 30, 2010, by Claude Solnik

Stony Brook University on Thursday locked out a group of high-profile Long Islanders and a local union from a meeting they had scheduled on campus to discuss a contract being negotiated with the SUNY Research Foundation. The Communications Workers of America local 1104 was scheduled to present its views regarding a stalled contract for SUNY Research Foundation research assistants to a panel of Long Island leaders. The panelists were organized by the Workers' Rights Board, a project of the nonprofit Long Island Jobs With Justice. The panel included Suffolk County Legislator Jon Cooper, Father Bill Brisotti of Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Church in Wyandanch, Victor Fusco of law firm Fusco, Brandenstein & Rada and economist Michael Crowell of the New York State Department of Labor. But the university revoked the permit for the event the day before, then locked the room and barred the group from entering, saying the planned event violated school policy.


Organizers and nearly 40 participants, mostly research assistants, left and eventually met surreptitiously in the library. "It's a public university. There are rooms available for students to meet and study in," said Jim McAsey, the union's organizing director. "We did find a way to do it on campus. We found a little room that was open." Cooper, who has served as a panelist for other Workers Rights Board events, said the meeting was able to go on, but only after last minute-scrambling and tension that could have been avoided. "It didn't have to be as confrontational as it ended up being," Cooper said. "We finally had to find some public space. We closed the door, so we were able to have a private hearing."


The on-campus showdown came just days after six union members stood and silently held red placards when SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher spoke at a business event at the Melville Marriott. Union officials said the Social Justice Alliance, a Stony Brook student club recognized by the university, had booked the room. But the university ruled that Long Island Jobs with Justice - an off-campus coalition of unions, faith-based groups and others - was the organizer. This event was booked with the University Office of Student Affairs as a student-hosted event," said Stony Brook spokeswoman Lauren Sheprow. "The flyer advertising the event stated that it was being hosted by Long Island Jobs With Justice, an organization with no university affiliation."


Stony Brook has varying policies for student groups and organizations not affiliated with the university. Students book rooms for free, while outside groups must obtain paid permits through the procurement office. "Apparently this organization did not follow the protocols," Sheprow said. The Communications Workers of America local 1104, which unionized 740 SUNY research foundation research assistants in December 2008, insisted they were invited to take part. And the Social Justice Alliance said they, as a school club, helped organize the event. "As a social justice student group, this hearing is obviously a concern to us," said Nazma Niles, the Social Justice Alliance secretary. "And we have proof that we are co-sponsoring the event. Not only do we have minutes of the meeting, but we have the room request approval form." Cooper said the meeting had been booked weeks in advance and that he had driven an hour and a half, while another member of the panel drove even further. "The way I see it, the host was the social club," Cooper said. "This wasn't organized by the union. It was organized by the Workers' Rights Board."