Six Things Milliken Could Do to Settle the Contract

A Message From PSC President Barbara Bowen
September 28

This Thursday, October 1, the PSC and allies from across the city will be delivering a wake-up call to Chancellor Milliken. Why? Because Milliken needs to wake up to the urgency we are experiencing after six years without a raise. We are taking the message to where he lives in order to make the need for a new contract as real to Milliken as it is to us. Will you be with us? Click here to say yes.

Milliken accepted the position of chancellor and the big salary and apartment that go with it. He is ultimately responsible for putting money on the table for our contract. It’s true that he has spoken up in Albany and made efforts to resolve the issue of State funding. Making an effort is good, but it is not enough. We need results.

As chancellor, Milliken has not offered the vision or strategy needed to resolve the difficult political situation in Albany he inherited. He has not effectively challenged the economic austerity agenda for CUNY.

Milliken was apparently unprepared for Governor Cuomo’s position on providing additional funding for a new contract—even though the Governor had driven a very hard bargain with all other State employees. It should have been a priority from day one of Milliken’s administration to make sure State funding for a new contract was in place.

There is still room for the Governor to do the right thing and provide funding for a fair contract. New York State has the necessary funds; what’s needed is the political will to invest in serious college education for working people and people of color. That’s why the PSC has mounted a big campaign in Albany, including media, support by elected officials, and a new bill to stabilize CUNY funding.

But securing the funding necessary for raises and other contract needs is ultimately the boss’s responsibility. While Milliken does not control State or City funding, there are several things completely within his power that would help to bring about a fair contract settlement. Here is my list:.

  1. Mount a public campaign about how the lack of a contract creates a crisis for educational quality at CUNY. Don’t pretend that it is business as usual when faculty and staff have not had a raise in six years. Testifying before the State Legislature on the need for contract funds was important, but Milliken needs to be loud and clear and public about the magnitude of the crisis the funding shortfall is causing. Instead of staying within safe parameters in his public comments, Milliken should name the racial and economic injustice that keeps CUNY underfunded and our contract unresolved.
  2. Break with the “rational tuition” policy that continues to impoverish CUNY. The PSC strongly opposed the policy in 2011 when it was pushed by former chancellor Goldstein; we foresaw that annual tuition increases for students would become an excuse for not providing adequate State operating funds. That’s exactly what has happened. Milliken has had a year to distance himself from Goldstein’s position; he should do it now.
  3. Accept the PSC’s repeated offers to make the case jointly for a new contract. Because the union and management share the position that CUNY salaries need to be increased, the PSC has proposed several times that we join forces in the public arena and speak or write together. There is potentially real power in seeing labor and management united in an effort to benefit students’ education. Milliken has refused every proposal the PSC leadership has made about joint action.
  4. Direct his representatives at the bargaining table to move immediately on the union’s non-economic proposals, all of which are aimed at enhancing students’ education as well as our own working conditions. Milliken must understand that faculty and staff need other gains in order to ratify a contract. Union members cannot be expected to accept a contract that offers less than we need economically while failing to make non-economic breakthroughs.
  5. Drop CUNY management’s demands for concessions. Some of management’s priority demands would increase the number of teaching positions that lack job security. CUNY already has a history of underpaying the thousands of adjuncts who work with almost no job security; this is not the time to add more positions with no security.
  6. Rethink CUNY’s budget, including its use of unrestricted reserves and the proliferation of high-paid management positions. Recent years have seen an influx of new deans and assistant deans and provosts, as well as millions of dollars spent on consultants and hundreds of millions on CUNYfirst. Before college presidents talk about cutting adjunct positions or making us bring in our own toner cartridges for college printers, Milliken should consider whether the University should continue to accumulate reserves and how the management payroll might be reduced.

For six years, as our salaries have lost real-dollar value, CUNY faculty and staff have continued to show up for work every day and do our jobs. It’s time for Milliken to do his.

We have a chance to deliver that message on Thursday. How powerfully we speak—how visibly we make our case not just to Milliken but to the whole city of New York—will depend on how many people are there. Your colleagues are counting on you for October 1. Don’t let them down.