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May 11, 2010

UUP files lawsuit, takes other legal action to stop furloughs

United University Professions, the union that represents academic and professional faculty at the State University of New York, today filed suit in federal court in Albany against the furloughs included in the emergency spending bill approved by the Legislature. The lawsuit charges the furloughs are unconstitutional because they violate Article 1§10 of the U.S. Constitution that prohibits states from passing legislation that impairs contract obligations. The suit also alleges the furloughs call for unequal treatment under the law, directing most state employees to take an unpaid day off while exempting management confidential employees and private contractors. The furloughs are expected to recur each week until a new state budget is approved.

UUP will seek a temporary restraining order as part of its federal lawsuit, seeking to block the furloughs from taking effect as scheduled during the week of May 17.

“We cannot stand idly by and let the governor unilaterally cut our member’s salaries by 20 percent,” UUP President Phillip H. Smith said. “We should not be forced to bear the burden of the state’s fiscal problems nor be treated as the scapegoat.”

Smith said UUP is initiating other legal action against the furloughs, including the filing of an improper practice charge with the Public Employment Relations Board. UUP charges the state is violating the Taylor Law requirement that the state must negotiate terms and conditions of employment.

UUP is also filing a grievance with SUNY charging that the furloughs violate four articles in UUP’s current contract, including one that bars management from reducing members’ salaries.

“We have a legal and binding contract with the state,” Smith said. “The state does not have the authority to walk away from the contract and throw SUNY into turmoil, at a time when faculty are giving final exams and grading papers.”

UUP is urging its members to mobilize by visiting their local lawmakers or writing to them through letters located on the union’s Web site thanking those who voted against the furlough and urging them to vote against the inclusion of furloughs in any future emergency spending bills.

UUP is the nation's largest higher education union, with more than 42,000 academic and professional faculty and retirees. UUP members work at 29 New York state-operated campuses, including SUNY’s public teaching hospitals and health science centers in Brooklyn, Long Island and Syracuse. It is an affiliate of NYSUT, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the AFL-CIO.


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