Members testify about the need for a fair contract -- Nov. 24, 2014

Updated: October 2, 2015
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The University Budget Must Fund a Fair Contract

Chancellor Milliken and the CUNY Board of Trustees heard from 30 rank-and-file union members and officers at the Board’s annual budget hearing at Baruch College on November 24, 2014. The members testified about the CUNY Budget Request for 2014-2015 and its connection to a fair PSC-CUNY contract. Together, they made the case for increased salaries at every level and offered unforgettable images of the damage unmanageable workloads can inflict on CUNY students, faculty and staff.

PSC Officers' Testimony

Barbara Bowen, President
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“…CUNY is not okay. The University is in crisis because the people who make it work are suffering, whatever their position. Research faculty have no time to do research, academic departments are losing faculty because of low salaries, instructors at every level cannot give students the attention they need, professional staff are struggling to live on salaries below the cost of living, remedial instructors teaching full time are being paid part-time wages, and adjuncts working essentially full time at CUNY can end up on food stamps. If that’s not a university in crisis, what is?” (Full testimony)

Steve London, First Vice President
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“…If CUNY had kept pace with inflation over the last forty years, we would indeed be competitive today. But the sad truth is that CUNY’s defunding and poor contract settlements over the years have led to CUNY’s current non-competitive status. If CUNY wishes to recruit a diverse, high quality instructional staff in the years to come, then substantial salary increases need to be negotiated.” (Full testimony)

Arthurine DeSola, Secretary
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“…I call on you today to address the urgent cry from HEOs across the University for the professionalism and respect we deserve. CUNY relies on us to do professional work; CUNY should treat us as professionals. That means adding a system that recognizes and rewards us when our work expands significantly and our job performance redefines our jobs.” (Full testimony)

Mike Fabricant, Treasurer
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“…I will fight for job security with full- and part-time colleagues because we understand that our fates are bundled together. Offering workers full-time jobs piecemeal or one course at a time and without job security or a living wage is simply inhumane, a toxin that poisons the University. The consequence of a lack of job security is concrete and rapid: loss of employment, loss of capacity to pay rent, the disintegration of a health care lifeline and, over time, a downward spiral for colleagues unable to rapidly reassemble their work lives.” (Full testimony)

Members' Voices Rise

Craig Bernardini, Associate Professor, Hostos Community College
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“…community college faculty in the CUNY system are not just teachers, but researchers; we were drawn to schools like Hostos because of our combined love for teaching and scholarship. Publication is one of the requirements for reappointment, tenure and promotion… it is not possible to fulfill an ambitious research agenda working in the conditions that we do… There is simply not enough time. And so we fight to make it, sometimes at the expense of our students, sometimes our college… and sometimes, perhaps most sadly, at the expense of our own health.” (Full testimony)

Robert Cermele, Associate Professor, New York City College of Technology
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“…The inability for HEOs to be promoted, in the offices and colleges where they currently work, is a morale issue. It hurts the whole University because it deprofessionalizes HEOs and undermines them in their important work… I urge the Trustees to seek funding in the University Budget Request to permit recognition through salary advancement for the HEO workforce.” (Full testimony)

Jill Cirasella, Associate Professor, CUNY Graduate Center
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“…librarians in CUNY are faculty… However, faculty in library departments work 35-hour weeks all year round, whereas other faculty work the academic calendar and also have winter and spring breaks… We receive far less leave time than other faculty members in the University. And the leave time we do get is not enough to fully develop, pursue, and expand our research agendas… I have a backlog of at least three articles…[and] I turned down a book offer from a well-known library science publisher because I did not have enough leave time to give it the attention it deserved.” (Full testimony)

Lorraine Cohen, Professor, LaGuardia Community College
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"…Though full-time instructional staff members are in much better shape than contingent workers, we too have experienced a decline in our standard of living because salaries have not kept up with the cost of living in New York City…the average cost of rentals in NYC is now more than $3000 a month… faculty and staff have not had a raise, while food, shelter, and transportation costs continue to increase. Those at the bottom of each title are really suffering." (Full testimony)

Leslie deGiere, Continuing Ed Teacher, Bronx Community College
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“…with 25 contact hours a week and extensive preparation beyond that, CLIP and CUNY Start teachers are only considered part-time employees. This leads to a variety of unacceptable problems… in CLIP, if we don’t teach in the summer session, we lose our health insurance. We even lose our health insurance if we teach within the same program but at a different campus… enrollment goes down in the summer so there isn’t enough work for those of us who can’t afford to lose our insurance.” (Full testimony)

Susan Di Raimo, Adjunct Lecturer, CCNY, Lehman College
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"...I come here to ask you, Chancellor and the Board of Trustees, to give adjuncts Job Security...The more secure an adjunct feels, the more they will be able to give back to the CUNY community...adjuncts will still be up for annual review by the department chair." (Full testimony)

Marc Edelman, Professor, Hunter College and CUNY Graduate Center
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“… I have worked at CUNY for 20 years… While our salaries have increased 0 percent… overall inflation has been 8.1 percent, rent has increased 10 percent and medical care 15.3 percent… my inflation-adjusted salary barely kept pace with inflation in the three years BEFORE the expiration of the contract… I HAVE BEEN DOING MY JOB AS A TEACHER, MENTOR, SCHOLAR AND PUBLIC INTELLECTUAL. WHY HAS MY HARD WORK — AND THAT OF MY COLLEAGUES — NOT BEEN RECOGNIZED WITH ADEQUATE, FAIR SALARIES?” (Full testimony)

Robert Farrell, Assistant Professor, Lehman College
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"I’m speaking… in support of a budget that funds annual leave parity for Librarians… there is a mechanism [for] librarians'…scholarly activities called “Professional Reassignment”…it is a broken mechanism… Professional Reassignments are limited in number—there are 250 library faculty across CUNY and only 50 [annual] leaves… between Spring 2009 and Spring 2014, 41 library professional reassignment leaves were taken, less than one year’s worth of leaves over five years!" (Full testimony)

Alan Feigenberg, Professor, City College
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"…most of us choose to teach at CUNY for personal, social and intellectual reasons; we want to work with, engage with, and facilitate the intellectual growth and development of the people of New York City… You, our Board of Trustees, have a personal, social and political obligation and responsibility to assure pay that allows us to live comfortably, work passionately, raise our families adequately and retire with dignity in this great city of ours." (Full testimony)

Bill Friedheim, Retiree, Borough of Manhattan Community College
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“…From personal experience, retirees know that CUNY salaries in the past were among the highest among public universities in the U.S. We’re dismayed by just how low those salaries have sunk…We’re dismayed that a university that retirees helped to enrich is now one of New York’s biggest employers of low-wage and contingent workers.” (Full testimony)

Elisabeth Gareis, Professor, Baruch College
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“…CUNY’s hiring and promotion standards as well as productivity goals are those of research institutions. We need a workload to match these standards and goals.” (Full testimony)

Arlene Geiger, Adjunct Lecturer, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
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“…I teach 3 courses each semester and 1 in the summer, a total of 7 courses per year. After over 20 years teaching as an adjunct at CUNY, my annual gross pay is $27,841. Now, and for many years, this has been my sole or primary source of income. Do you really believe that adjunct faculty are fairly compensated for the work we do? ...Before I step into the classroom I’ve spend many weeks constructing a syllabus, that is organizing the course, finding a text and other reading materials...In addition to classroom teaching, I typically meet with students for 2 ½ hours each week outside the classroom, referred to as office hours. Then, there are also many hours spent preparing lessons, exercises, online quizzes, homework assignments, study guides and of course endless grading. If I added up the hours that I actually spend teaching 3 courses, it would total 35 hours per week.” (Full testimony)

Geoff Johnson, Continuing Education Teacher, College of Staten Island
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“…CUNY Start is an important and innovative program that caters to a growing and historically under-served population of college students—those with remedial instructional needs who wish to pursue their degrees. I'm privileged to work with these students, and the City University of New York should be proud of CUNY Start and what it is accomplishing. But…I am severely overworked and underpaid…CUNY has done very well recruiting and training talented teachers and advisers to fill the ranks of the CUNY Start program, but its failure to budget…those jobs as …full-time positions threatens… CUNY's potential to be a leader in developmental education.” (Full testimony)

Rebekah Johnson, Assistant Professor, LaGuardia Community College
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“…We at CUNY serve the students of the City, and many of these students come to college ill-prepared and they need additional help, counseling, advising, nudging, tutoring, caring, and TIME from us. We need workload relief in the form of a teaching load reduction to better serve the University and our students… We deserve to have lives outside of work…I find myself needing to stay later at the office…Then I go home and try to spend limited quality time with my 18-month-old son.” (Full testimony)

Joyce Solomon Moorman, Associate Professor, Borough of Manhattan Community College
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“…The starting salary for a CUNY Assistant Professor who already has a doctorate, according to the contract presently in force is only $42,873. With that salary your monthly income is approximately $3,573 per month… I remember when I started working being told that rent should not be more than 25% of your monthly salary…Where in New York City can you find a two-bedroom apartment for $900 a month that has working lights, running water, heat and a kitchen?… CUNY faculty work hard and earn every penny they are paid. We deserve to be able to live within a 30-minute commute to our jobs in communities with adequate housing and services.” (Full testimony)

Frank Munoz, Assistant to HEO, Bronx Educational Opportunity Center
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“…The Educational Opportunity Centers are the front line education and service-providers to many “almost-forgotten” NYC residents who have dreams and aspirations to improve their lives… On many occasions, our staff and faculty have to take on responsibilities beyond their duties, simply because of the lack of funding for much-needed services and programs… EOCs have had to cut back on staff or programs when operating costs go up but State funding is not increased… EOCs want to maintain parity in salary and benefits with CUNY employees in equivalent titles.” (Full testimony)

J. Paul Narkunas, Associate Professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
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“…As a CUNY faculty member, I can speak to how our working conditions are our students' learning conditions. Yet, I also have seen how our students' often impoverished learning conditions also dramatically affect our work lives… Do the just thing and allow pay increases for full-time faculty that are not only pegged to the inflation and consumer price indices, but also address the burgeoning responsibilities we bear along with our students. As we witness a commitment of hundreds of millions of dollars to capital investment… [for] CUNYFIRST and Digital CUNY, let’s see the same commitment to CUNY’s human capital, our students, as well as your faculty, HEOs, and CLT employees.” (Full testimony)

Marcia Newfield, Adjunct Lecturer, Borough of Manhattan Community College
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“…I have been working as an adjunct at CUNY… for 26 years… I hear so many stories of people, adjuncts, struggling to make ends meet. Even when we teach a full load of 15 contact hours per semester, which most of us don’t, we earn less than $30,000 a year…our classes may be cancelled at any time. There is no job security, no payment for cancellation of classes. We earn a few dollars more than food stamps allow and we have trouble collecting unemployment insurance even though we are seasonal workers.” (Full testimony)

George Emilio Sanchez, Professor, College of Staten Island
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“…One of the hidden factors of our current workload is how much time we need to mentor and give guidance to our students. This means there is an unacknowledged world of mentoring we are constantly engaged in…We need a new contract that will respectfully honor the time and labor that goes into fully mentoring our up-and- coming artists and professionals.” (Full testimony)

Katherine Schaffer, Continuing Education Teacher, Kingsborough Community College
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“…CUNY Start teachers put in an incredible amount of time and work…We are only paid for 30 hours a week, but we are in the classroom teaching 25 hours a week. This leaves only five hours per week or one hour per day of paid work to do the myriad things necessary in order to provide the kind of teaching our students deserve…CUNY Start teachers work-full time jobs (if not more than full time) and the budgeting for our salaries should reflect and respect that.” (Full testimony)

Sigmund Shen, Associate Professor, LaGuardia Community College
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“…We don’t believe we should be forced to choose between salary raises and workload reduction. The purpose of a salary is to support quality of work. Our commitment to that quality is being sabotaged by the culture of overwork.” (Full testimony)

Kathleen Varanese, CUNY Start Lead R/W Teacher, Queensborough Community College
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“…At CUNY Start we are required to follow an extremely demanding curriculum, demanding for the students as well as the teachers… it is impossible to fit all of this work into the 30 hours a week for which we are paid… Our students are triple remedial, meaning they have failed all three placement tests—math, reading, and writing—and they need a lot of individual attention to enable them to develop the skills to be successful in college. If CUNY Start teachers were full time, we would be able to address the needs of our high-risk students.” (Full testimony)

Andrea Ades Vasquez, Higher Education Officer Associate, CUNY Graduate Center
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“…HEOs…are in a "non-promotional series". The consequence is that after many years, once HEOs have reached the top salary step, even if they have increased their skills and even if they have seen a dramatic, measurable increase in their job duties, there is no opportunity to achieve recognition in title or financial compensation…It is time for the budget to compensate HEOs…[for] the excellence of their work and their commitment to their project, office, or department.” (Full testimony)

Felicia Wharton, EOC Doctoral Lecturer, Brooklyn Educational Opportunity Center
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“…CUNY must continue to remind the Legislature of the importance of providing a stable flow of funds to the EOCs so we can continue to offer the programs that have made a difference in the lives of thousands of New Yorkers. Funding will also be needed to ensure that the salaries and benefits of instructional staff employees at the CUNY EOCs continue to be equivalent to those of our CUNY colleagues as a new contract is negotiated.” (Full testimony)

Members Who Submitted Written Testimony

Deborah Hertzberg, Senior College Laboratory Technician, Brooklyn College.
“…The Department of Theater produces 4 productions each semester…During a regular work week I typically work 40 hours, instead of the contractual 35 hours. … During a week when we are mounting a show, I often work around 50 hours…In all my 12 years, I have never been compensated in pay for hours worked in excess of 35 hours. …new time sheets [should] be implemented in a manner that does not degrade our professionalism and permits payment for overtime hours worked. …[The contract] must include wage increases for CLTs who are among the lowest earning instructional staff members. ” (Full testimony)

Felipe Pimentel, Assistant Professor, Hostos Community College
“…we are losing faculty every year because of our non-competitive salaries and heavy workload…We cannot afford to live in NYC with…non-competitive salaries …We cannot accept an economic offer that would not even keep with inflation—especially in a city where inflation is higher than in most cities in the U.S.” (Full testimony)