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Letters to the Editor

Seeing clearly with new plan

After reading Ari Paul’s article “Rave Reviews for New Optical Plan,” in the September Clarion, I can report I agree fully there is great improvement in the benefits. How did you do it?

I went to Raymond Opticians in Ossining, New York, at the Arcadian Shopping Center. They are not on the list provided to us in January of this year – though their sister store in Mount Kisco is listed. I was very pleased to learn that all the options I wanted were included, with no charge: oversize metal frame, spring-loaded, tinting, scratch-resistant coating, UV coating and polarized lenses (this was fabulous).
I recall paying at least $100 for polarized lenses about 10 years ago. This feature alone is amazing in improving vision in bright sun and with headlight glare at night.

Congratulations to the team that arranged for these super benefits.

Matt Lanna
BMCC, Retired

PSC President Barbara Bowen responds:

Thank you, Matt Lanna! We were able to make a major improvement in the optical benefit because PSC members won tough fights on our last contract and on adjunct health insurance. Both changes created new resources for the Welfare Fund, and the Fund used these, together with some astute management, to negotiate a better benefit.


Austerity on campus

While Governor Cuomo tries to position himself nationally as a friend to education, his policies have stripped CUNY of needed resources. Just doing normal activities – from printing out required forms and copying them once signed, to getting a cup of water – have become difficult. Here’s a sample of austerity at City Tech, Fall 2017 edition:

OVER-ENROLLMENT Enrollment caps were lifted and additional students enrolled in all public speaking, English composition and interdisciplinary courses. There was no consultation or even announcement to the faculty. (A letter from the dean was read at meetings two weeks later.) In the case of public speaking, which I teach, this increase means each student will literally have less time allotted to them, thus lowering the educational opportunity for all.

PRINTER INK I asked our departmental secretary for an ink cartridge for my computer and she said we were all out and she was not permitted to order anything. Later, my department put in an order for a new ink cartridge, with fingers crossed. No word a month later.

LIBRARY DATABASE SUBSCRIPTIONS Financial aid payments generally are not available to students for the first several weeks of the semester. With that in mind, for the first two reading assignments in my play analysis class I chose works that could be accessed electronically from our library’s collection without charge. Over a third of my students came to class unprepared, because the database was unavailable. Our subscription was suspended for lack of payment. (I received a gracious apology from the head librarian and the database was re-activated within a few weeks.)

NO COPIER Faculty are regularly instructed to make copies in the Faculty Resource Center. On September 14 the copier there was out of paper; no quizzes, handouts, or signed field trip forms could be duplicated. When I tried to make copies in my department, a sign announced that the department had an extreme paper shortage and faculty were prohibited from making copies. Two weeks later, the paper shortage continues.

WATER There are no water fountains (or bathrooms) anywhere in the building where my departmental office is located. Instead, we have a water cooler that takes five-gallon bottles. The water cooler in my office has been empty since early September.
We must all work to convince our government leaders and CUNY management that austerity education hurts our students and the future of our city.

Shauna Vey
City Tech


Losing the plot

I am baffled – deeply baffled – by the inclusion of the comment entitled “The Jewish questions” among the several comments on the events at Charlottesville (“Fighting hate after Charlottesville”). What relationship does its content bear to the events in Charlottesville? In my reading of it, little. The writer presents herself as a critic of the “conservative” Jewish “establishment” in opposition to the “progressive Jews” with whom she identifies.

Was that what the Charlottesville events were about? In what way was this opposition among Jewish groups related to what took place in Charlottesville? There was outright anti-Semitism replete with swastikas and Nazi slogans, in addition to a torchlight march reminiscent of the KKK that was both an anti-Semitic and anti-black movement. And of course the death of one anti-white-supremacist protester. Such a false connection diminishes the focus on the main issue – namely, what occurred in Charlottesville and its political aftermath.

Vivian R. Gruder
Queens College, Retired


Women of labor

New York women firefighters recently celebrated the 35th anniversary of the formation of their association (United Women Firefighters) and the 40th anniversary of winning the sex discrimination lawsuit, Berkman v. City of New York, that allowed them to work as firefighters. A September panel convened at Tamiment Library Labor Archives under the auspices of the New York Labor History Association and LaborArts included representatives of women stagehands, plumbers and electricians, as well as firefighters. Jane LaTour, author of Sisters in the Brotherhoods: Working Women Organizing for Equality in New York City, moderated.

The presence of these stalwart women was thrilling – they went against the normative expectations of their time and endured incredible obstacles. The spectrum of approaches they used and continue to use to gain inclusion into these formerly male-only and still male-dominated trades is instructive and resonant with some strategies of our union.

LEGAL They fought to change the physical tests to be more relevant to the actual job versus being solely focused on upper body strength, which favors males. They are currently trying to raise the cap on the age of application from 28 to 35 years, arguing that many women don’t find out about the opportunities till later and that they do have the body strength.

NETWORKING They had to find each other. Because of the small number of female firefighters, it was and is lonely – most of the original inductees toured for 21 years without ever working with another woman. The same is true for stagehands, plumbers and wireworkers.

MENTORING All the groups have developed programs and training workshops for obtaining and learning the jobs and surviving the barriers. The proof of success is that there were 8,700 recent applications for female firefighters. Local 3 of the Electricians Union pairs each apprentice with a mentor who assists them in navigating the industry, educates them in trade unionism and engages them in the labor movement.

POWER POSITIONS They all saw the importance of running for office in their local, city and national groups. They support each other in getting closer to decision-making hubs.

SOLIDARITY The stagehand rep who is a delegate to the New York City Central Labor Council says the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees would not have won the strike that protected their health care and pensions without the active support of allied unions. Last week’s massive rally in support of Spectrum electricians’ strike is in that direction.

Marcia Newfield
BMCC, Retired


Admin for Trump

Private universities – particularly in New York City – have positioned themselves carefully regarding the Trump agenda. Universities like Columbia and The New School have issued statements decrying Trump’s travel ban targeting Muslim communities as well as his call to end the DACA program. Thus the reputation of private universities as left-leaning institutions is preserved. However, the administrations of these universities have been careful to limit their protests to statements rather than resisting Trump by taking action that is immediately under their control. When it comes to Trump’s anti-union agenda, New York City private universities are all on board.

The trend of adjunctification in universities continues unabated; over half of university faculty are part-time workers. This includes adjuncts as well as graduate students, who increasingly rely on picking up extra teaching loads in order to financially support themselves. Graduate students have been fighting for years to protect their rights as workers through union organizing. In 2016 the National Labor Relations Board reversed an earlier ruling and decided that graduate students do, in fact, have the right to unionize: this ruling was in response to organizing at Columbia.

Both Columbia and The New School provide lip service to the right to unionize. Both administrations have challenged their graduate students’ union elections – challenges that have been denied by the NLRB. These challenges against elections and other anti-union tactics (Columbia launched an anti-union propaganda website after the NLRB’s first ruling) reveal its real interests: undermining the rights of workers. Columbia even increased the pay of some student workers (although not to a living wage) before the NLRB ruled on their election challenge. But pay is not the same thing as rights, something both the administrations and graduate students know. The administrations of private universities – representing New York’s business interests and upper-crust community – are invested in rolling back the rights of labor, and will support Trump’s lead in this area.

Rosa Squillacote
Graduate Center


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

To submit a letter for possible publication, write to: Clarion/PSC, 61 Broadway, 15th floor, New York, NY 10006 or email apaul@pscmail.org.