Longy union, administration praise ruling to restore staff

By Geoff Edgers
Globe Staff / January 8, 2011

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Both the Longy School of Music’s faculty union and the conservatory’s administration said they were pleased by a court decision Tuesday to restore members of the school’s part-time staff who were cut during last year’s reorganization.

The decision will affect the eight instructors whose positions were eliminated. It will not restore the workloads of the dozens of the conservatory’s 188 teachers who had their hours reduced in some way.

In her decision, US District Court Judge Patti B. Saris said “there is reasonable cause to believe that Longy has committed an unfair labor practice.’’

But she wrote that the school has every right to restructure and that the freedom to do so “must be protected zealously in this case in particular because Longy is an academic institution concerned with the pedagogical impact of its employment policies.’’

Longy made changes last year as part of a larger strategic plan that is linked to the school’s negotiations to become a satellite of the larger Bard College in New York. Longy’s faculty, though, maintain that the school’s administration made the changes, in part, to crush a newly formed union. The National Labor Relations Board filed for the injunction on the union’s behalf.

The issues in Saris’s temporary injunction will be the focus of an administrative law judge’s hearing on Jan. 24.

“There’s a likelihood this could change but I don’t think that’s going to happen,’’ said Stephen Crawford, a spokesman for the Massachusetts branch of the American Federation of Teachers. “If anything, it puts pressure on Longy to fix this.’’

Longy president Karen Zorn said she was happy with the ruling.

“We felt we legally had the right to reorganize and realign our business and she agreed with us,’’ said Zorn.

The eight faculty members, she said, will be brought back only so Longy can negotiate a settlement with them.

“We don’t have work for them,’’ she said. “This will be relatively focused on how we can make them whole as they go on their own way.’’

Geoff Edgers can be reached at