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This is the image of a button worn by a small contingent of adjunct professors who attended a fall 2014 Cayuga Community College Board of Trustees meeting.

Cayuga Community College part-time faculty learned April 8 that they could form a bargaining unit separate from their full-time counterparts.

According to a May 1 statement from the New York State United Teachers organization, state Public Employee Relations Board Judge Nancy Burritt issued an April 8 decision confirming CCC adjunct faculty could unionize.

Last fall, adjunct professors attended CCC Board of Trustees meetings requesting the college acknowledge and approve a separate bargaining unit, the proposed Cayuga Part-Time Faculty Association.

At that time, Interim President Dr. Gregory DeCinque said college officials did not object to the formation of a union, but did wish to pursue all legal avenues to determine the efficacy of the college's ability to sustain two faculty unions.

On Friday, DeCinque again confirmed the college has no objection to the formation of a part-time faculty association, but would prefer one unit comprised of both full- and part-time professors. The college's aim, he said, is to determine a fiscally responsible way to acknowledge the adjuncts' wish to organize while assuring consistent delivery of instruction.

"Those who do the same work should be in the same union," DeCinque said. "It would be in the best interest of all faculty, full- and part-time."

Jeff Edwards, chair of the CCC Board of Trustees, concurred with the idea of consolidated bargaining units.

"It would make more sense to have one group to negotiate with, because they're so similar," he said.

The college president, however, acknowledged Burritt's decision and said, "there's no question, we would comply with the law of the State of New York."

During the fall, approximately 850 students, staff and community members lent their support to the adjuncts' cause by signing petitions calling for CCC to not spend money on an appeal of a part-time faculty bargaining unit.

"We have not yet filed an appeal, but we're in the process of discussing that course of action," DeCinque said.

NYSUT organizer Trudy Rudnick said money the college would spend on legal counsel fighting an appeal of the PERB decision would divert resources away from students and create a "difficult situation and  environment that's not good for anybody.

"Legal fees are huge," she said. "The students deserve the college to pay attention to them."

DeCinque, however, looks past any short-term legal investment and considers the future long-term expense of negotiating two union contracts.

"Think about the cost of a whole other contract," he said. Adding that over time "those" costs would surpass the price of an appeal.

While not speaking for the Cayuga County Legislature, Minority Leader Keith Batman (D-Springport), a former CCC dean and professor of business, said "in general terms, everyone has a right to organize."

The Legislature provides some financial support to the local public college, but he said it wouldn't be advisable for the governmental body to become involved in this issue.

"The county Legislature should not express an opinion on this," Batman said.

Staff writer Carrie Chantler can be reached at (315) 282-2244 or carrie.chantler@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @CitizenChantler.

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