Byline: Scott Malone

NEW YORK — Teachers at the Fashion Institute of Technology and supporters from other teachers’ unions rallied outside FIT’s Seventh Avenue campus on Friday to mark the 787th day the institutions’ members had worked without a contract.
Several hundred marchers supporting the Union of College Employees of FIT chanted: “What do we want? Contract. When do we want it? Now.”
Louis Stollar, president of the UCE-FIT, said the sticking points of the past two years of negotiations have been “raises and give-backs.”
The union’s 1,400 members, which include not only faculty, but also white-collar college workers such as secretaries and technicians, are seeking over a 27-month period two 4 percent raises and a 1 percent raise. They have had no raises in the last three years, Stollar said.
“We’ve had people who started here three years ago who left because they said, ‘I can’t work somewhere they don’t give raises,”‘ he claimed.
Annette Piecora, acting vice president of faculty and staff relations at FIT — which receives funding from the state and city and is part of the State University of New York — said that the school had been limited in its ability to offer raises since 1999, when the city stopped funding its collective-bargaining increases.
Earlier this month the city informed FIT administrators that the 2002-2003 budget would include some money for raises to its teachers, and on April 17, FIT made an offer to the union to meet its raise request “in return for what I believe and the rest of the administrators believe are modest changes in contractual terms and conditions,” Piecora said.
She said the union rejected that offer, but the school then made a follow-up offer, which she said is still on the table.
Union president Stollar said the terms rejected by the UCE-FIT included a reduction in pay for taking on substitute-teacher duty and an increase in other workloads.
Piecora called Stollar’s claims inaccurate, but declined to give further details on the school’s offer while talks continue.
At the rally, Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, which represents faculty at New York City public schools, told the crowd she blames the current budget problems in public education on the city’s previous mayor.
“Rudy Giuliani did everything in his power+to destroy any institution that started with ‘public,”‘ she contended. “He didn’t just go after it with a scalpel, he went after it with a meat cleaver.”
Edward Sullivan, a Democratic member of the State Assembly who represents Manhattan, said: “I am, as a state employee, embarrassed at the way the state has neglected its obligation to support [this] organization.”
The downturn in the economy, and particularly the tough times on Wall Street, have taken a heavy toll on city and state budgets, leaving both tiers of government that fund FIT looking for ways to reduce expenses.

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