The arbitrator in the disciplinary hearing of campus worker Carol Lang at the City College of New York (CCNY) ruled against Lang in August after months of hearings. But on one point where the arbitrator decided in her favor, the College administration has refused to accept the decision.
Lang, who has a long history of activism in the class struggle, was arrested two days after a demonstration against military recruitment for the war in Iraq in March 2005. CCNY is heavily engaged in military research, and its administators showed their loyalty to the Pentagon and the criminal war in Iraq by cracking down on the protesters.
The non-violent demonstration was attacked by campus cops, and Lang and three students who were arrested at the event (collectively, the “CCNY Four”) were charged with assaulting a police officer — standard procedure for the NYPD. The students were suspended from classes, and Lang was suspended from work without pay, for four weeks. Eventually the criminal charges were dropped against all four and they were allowed back on campus. (For details and statements on the case by the League for the Revolutionary Party, see our previous postings on this subject.
In ruling against Lang, arbitrator Herbert L. Haber cited discrepancies in the testimonies of witnesses appearing on Lang’s behalf but discounted the far larger number of discrepancies in the testimony of the cops. For example, the cops’ stories differed on which of them had arrested one of the students; the complaining cop, Sergeant Tukpui, testified that the woman who assaulted him had “fled the scene,” whereas Lang had remained after the event discussing it with an administrator; and the head cop at the event, Lieutenant White, ordered Tukpui to not hand in his original report because it was full of errors.
Haber’s decision added two days to Lang’s suspension, but the administration was denied the additional five-week suspension it was demanding. Further, because Lang had been temporarily off the payroll, the administration maintained that she was ineligible for an $800 payment included in the District Council 37 contract that was ratified during her suspension. Haber denied that claim and granted Lang the $800. But management refuses to pay, claiming that the lump sum payment issue was not part of the arbitrator’s purview, even though it is clearly a matter of interpreting the union contract.
The arbitration decision is a defeat for workers’ rights and for the anti-recruitment struggle. The arbitrator essentially “split the difference,” accepting the original suspension but denying the College’s additional demands, thus giving the appearance of fairness. But since Lang and the rest of the CCNY Four were not guilty of assault or any violation, the decision was a severe injustice.
The College’s refusal to pay Lang the $800 it owes her is a slap in the face to all workers and a dangerous precedent. That an employer can opt to reject the part of a ruling that went against it underscores that the process is stacked. The failure of the leadership of DC 37 to carry out any union mobilization on Lang’s behalf (see CCNY Cracks Down on Anti-Military Protesters in PR 75) was no doubt a strong factor in encouraging management’s stance.