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Unionized Canisius College workers protest planned pension cuts

Financially struggling Canisius College is now dealing with very public labor problems.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

The North Buffalo college just bought out nearly three dozen veteran professors, has cut back on contributions into its pension system and is bargaining with its facilities workers, around 66 of them represented by SEIU Local 200.

Union members demonstrated and chanted Wednesday along Hughes Avenue, across from the college library, before going to the office of College President John Hurley. Union Chairman Chris Ring said he is skeptical about college protestations of fiscal problems.

"That's what they say, but they have told us they have a $10 million cash reserve," Ring said. "They just did a buyout on 34 teachers for, I believe, between $5 and $6 million. We see how they waste money. So being on the streets, so to speak, in the hallways, more or less, we understand where they're spending their money."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

Ring said the college is not spending their money on people. He said there is a lack of respect for the workers, as evidenced by no raises and proposed cuts in employer and employee contributions to the 403-B retirement system.

Adjunct Communications and English teacher Ed Taylor was there to express solidarity.

"We're here in support of our brothers and sisters in the union and our brother and sister colleagues as full-time faculty. Contingent faculty have issues that go a long way back and also across the country and to other campuses in Buffalo," Taylor said.

The workers were joined by some adjunct faculty and some students. In a written statement, the college said it respects and values the workers and will continue to negotiate in good faith.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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