Unions successful in blocking furloughs
Two of NYSUT's higher education locals won a decisive victory in Federal District Court Friday morning when Judge Lawrence Kahn granted them a preliminary injunction that blocks indefinitely Gov. David Paterson's plan to furlough state employees.
Lawyers for United University Professions, which represents 35,000 academic and professional faculty at the State University of New York, and the Professional Staff Congress, which represents more than 20,000 faculty and staff at the City University of New York, argued in court Wednesday that the one-day-a-week furloughs violated the union's contracts and would cause irreparable harm to tens of thousands of New Yorkers.
The lawyers further argued that the contract clause of the constitution is a basic, substantive right that cannot be violated except in extreme emergencies. The state, they said, failed to demonstrate an extreme emergency and to negotiate another solution with the unions. The PSC also argued that the state didn't even have the right to consider violating its contract, as the PSC negotiates its agreements with the City of New York.
The judge agreed with the union's positions on every point..
The unions' lawyers also noted inconsistencies in the state's arguments. The state presented the furloughs as critical to resolving a short-term cash flow problem, and presented furloughs as a long-term solution to the budget deficit. Neither reason was valid for violating a contract, the unions argued, but the fact that the state demonstrated such a back-and-forth position further undermined the state's contention that furloughs were the only solution.
The preliminary injunction upholds the emergency order granted by the judge two weeks ago, and will remain in effect until a lawsuit by the two locals against the governor is resolved. The state may appeal the decision, but no information was available Friday on whether the state plans to do so.
Unions argue for injunction to stop furloughs; decision expected any day
Two of NYSUT’s higher education affiliates could know as early as Thursday if a federal judge will grant a preliminary injunction that would continue to block Gov. David Paterson’s furlough plan for state employees
United University Professions, which represents 35,000 professional and academic faculty at the State University of New York; and the Professional Staff Congress, which represents more than 20,000 faculty and staff at the City University of New York, presented oral arguments Wednesday in their lawsuit before U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Kahn.
The unions argued that a furlough would be a breach of contract, and that the state never tried to negotiate another solution with them before announcing the furloughs. The PSC also argued that it is not subject to a furlough imposed by the state, because the PSC negotiates its contracts with the City of New York.
The unions won a temporary restraining order two weeks ago that halted the furlough plan. They are asking the court to impose the preliminary injunction until their lawsuit against the governor is decided.
Oral arguments set for May 26
Oral arguments in the lawsuit to prevent furloughs for thousands of NYSUT's higher education members are scheduled for May 26 in federal court in Albany.
NYSUT's affiliates - United University Professions and the Professional Staff Congress - will ask the court to issue a preliminary injunction, which would remain in effect while the court decides whether to issue a permanent injunction. The court could decide on the request for the preliminary injunction that day.
UUP and the PSC won an important victory last week in their effort to block the furlough plan, when the court issued a temporary restraining order - an emergency order that will remain in effect until the court issues a decision following the May 26 oral arguments. Watch the NYSUT Web site for updates on the lawsuit.
NYSUT succeeds in halting governor's illegal furlough plan
Good news came late Wednesday as a federal court in Albany issued a temporary injunction to stop until May 26 the governor's abitrarily imposed plan to furlough many state employees for one day a week until the state's multi-billion dollar deficit is closed. NYSUT recently filed legal actions seeking injunctions on behalf of its higher education affiliates. Keep it pointed to NYSUT.org for additional info.
Press Release: NYSUT sues governor to stop illegal furlough plan
ALBANY, NY, May 11, 2010 - NYSUT today filed suits on behalf of its higher education affiliates to block an unprecedented and unlawful furlough plan that would strip state employees of their pay one day per week beginning Monday until New York's multi-billion-dollar deficit is closed.
The legal actions by NYSUT filed in federal court, Albany, seek temporary restraining orders against Gov. David Paterson, who forced the illegal measure through the state Legislature by threatening to shut down state government. The legislation was passed as part of an emergency-spending bill needed to keep government operating in absence of a new state budget.
NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi said the union will do everything in its power to protect its members' livelihoods and professions.
"This illegitimate and misguided measure is a violation of contracts that were negotiated in good faith, and would hurt families and take money out of the economy at a time when so many of our communities and businesses are already struggling financially," Iannuzzi said. "It would also interfere with the education of tens of thousands of students in our public higher-education system at a critical time of year, when professors are grading final papers and preparing final exams."
The lawsuits were filed on behalf of the 55,000 members of the United University Professions and Professional Staff Congress, both of which are NYSUT affiliates. UUP represents 35,000 academic and professional faculty employed by the State University of New York. The PSC represents more than 22,000 faculty and staff working in the City University of New York system.
NYSUT maintains the mandatory furlough violates Article I, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution - known as the "contract clause" - which, in part, prohibits states from passing legislation that impairs contract obligations.
"We cannot stand by and allow the state to unilaterally slice our salaries by 20 percent," said UUP President Phil Smith. "We will do whatever we can to stop this egregious act."
PSC President Barbara Bowen characterized the furlough as "an illegal action - a tax increase imposed on modestly paid public employees.
"Furloughs for CUNY faculty and staff would cut short the aspirations of thousands of students on the brink of graduation, and would scapegoat hard-working public employees for a budget deficit we did nothing to create," Bowen said. "This is not about sacrificing for the common good; this is about playing politics while refusing to offer real solutions to the state's budget problem."
NYSUT, the state's largest union, represents more than 600,000 classroom teachers and other school employees; faculty and other professionals at the state's community colleges; State University of New York and City University of New York; and other education and health professionals. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.