Monday, March 25, 2013

Trustee Profile: Union Busting Lawyer, Peter Pantaleo


At the heart of the governance battles going on at CUNY right now is the cozy relationship between the Chancellor and CUNY Board of Trustees. While most suspect that initiatives such as Pathways originate with the Chancellor, he hides behind the alleged statutory power of the Board of Trustees to impose his plans. Who is on this board and why don’t they stand up to him and protect the interests of the students and communities they are supposed to serve?

The CUNY Board of Trustees has 17 members, including two ex officio members: the head of the CUNY University Student Senate, and the head of the University Faculty Senate (who cannot vote).  The other members are appointed by either the Mayor or the Governor. Eight members were initially appointed by Pataki, four by Bloomberg, and one each by Giuliani, Patterson, and Cuomo. They serve seven year terms and can be reappointed for additional terms. The Chairman of the Board is Benno Schmidt, the only educator appointed to the Board, though his interests in for-profit education and corporate led “reform” movements will be discussed in a later post. Official bios can be found at http://www.cuny.edu/about/trustees/board.html.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be profiling a number of trustees to illustrate their utter lack of qualifications to serve on the Board of this great public institution. Today we start with union-busting lawyer Peter S. Pantaleo.

Democratic Governor David Paterson appointed Peter S. Pantaleo, a top professional in the lucrative field of anti-unionism. The Board of Trustees website (http://www.cuny.edu/about/trustees/board.html.)  identifies Pantaleo as a “Partner at DLA PIPER,” adding: “Mr. Pantaleo represents both domestic and international employers in labor, employment, and civil rights matters. While he has substantial experience litigating cases before courts, administrative agencies, and arbitration panels, the principal focus of Mr. Pantaleo’s practice is advising employers in complex, politically sensitive labor and employment matters.”

DLA PIPER is the largest law firm in the U.S. by attorney headcount, reportedly representing half the Fortune 500. Its website includes a “Labor and Employment Alert” giving employers step-by-step instructions on how to use a recent decision of the anti-labor NLRB to “prohibit use of email for union organizing purposes.” This is remarkably similar to what happened at CUNY’s LaGuardia Community College, which banned faculty from using email to discuss union business until this gag rule was defeated by the union. http://archive.psc-cuny.org/Clarion/LAGCCfreespeech.pdf.

Pantaleo has worked for the Las Vegas MGM Grand hotel during its campaign to stop a unionization drive (New York Times, 10 March 1997). His old firm Pantaleo, Lipkin & Moss represented Las Vegas bosses at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) who banned three workers from handing out pro-union leaflets at the entrance to a casino/hotel complex.

In May 1998 Pantaleo co-authored an article in Gaming Law Review describing strategies for “lessening the power” of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union.  Another Pantaleo piece, from 2004, tells employers in non-union workplaces how to use a NLRB rulings to prevent employees from having a coworker present during “investigatory interviews” (Monday Business Briefing, 5 July 2004).

Perhaps Panteleo’s contempt for organized labor is part of the reason the Chancellor feels so supported in his efforts to undermine governance and reduce faculty power.

If you’ve got information about the activities of the Chancellor or CUNY trustees you would like people to know about, please send it to us at PSCCUNYBC@gmail.com.

Thanks to the CUNY Internationalist Clubs for assistance with this post.

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