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30,000 conversations this summer

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Dear PSC Members,

I want to start by acknowledging the pain and anger members are feeling because of the murder of George Floyd. The PSC issued a statement this weekend, and we will continue to support our members and students as we work with allies to end state-sanctioned violence against people of color.

The agreement the union reached on Friday with CUNY management extending the last day for adjunct appointment notification to June 30 averted immediate layoffs of thousands of adjuncts. But we need more than a reprieve. And we need college provosts to authorize department chairs to move forward on adjunct reappointments they were already prepared to make.

The union gained the extra time to fight for adjunct jobs because of the concerted pressure we put on CUNY through this spring. Now we must use that time to develop the power needed to prevent all mass layoffs, stop all cuts and keep our members safe both now and when we return to on-campus work.

Starting today, the PSC is launching an escalating campaign for the summer and beyond: Save Lives, Save Jobs, Save CUNY. The aim of the campaign is to prevail in what is likely to be a major public struggle against deep cuts to CUNY and for full funding of the University. The fight is not going to be easy. We are up against a catastrophic recession, a pandemic centered in New York City, and the same forces of racist disinvestment that have disproportionately cut CUNY in past economic crises.

But we have an enormous resource: the power of 30,000 union members. I have never seen such high levels of member activism in the union as I am seeing now, even after the unprecedented demands of this semester and the larger demands of this political moment. PSC members have told their chapter leaders that they are ready to fight.

The union’s chapter leadership and executive council are meeting weekly to coordinate the campaign. But the key, of course, is the power of members acting together. Many campuses have already formed emergency response committees during the crisis, and we encourage others to form similar committees, involving all PSC members who work on your campus. Contact your chapter chair to find out how to join. Campus committees are organizing protests against campus budget cuts, virtual town halls, and more.

The union will continue to campaign on many fronts, including in Albany and Washington, in coalition with students and other groups, but the center must be developing our own strength as an organized and united membership. Our power in every arena is based on that measurable strength.

The union needs to create enough support and communication among members to be able to take whatever strong action is necessary, including, if needed, a vote to authorize disruptive job action. Building that support starts with member-to-member conversations. Our goal is to reach every PSC member in conversation by the end of the summer. Your chapter leaders will be calling on you to participate in those conversations and sign up to be part of the campaign.

Start by making a commitment to participate in three union-wide actions this summer. Many other actions will be announced as the campaign develops, but please make these three dates part of your summer plans:

Tuesday, June 23: union-wide action to stop layoffs
Saturday, July 18: car caravan or other physically distant protest action
Wednesday, August 26: mass action on the first day of the semester.

It will take a steady, strategic campaign as well as mass public actions to prevail in the conditions we face. But I have confidence in our membership, based on extraordinary individual and collective work members have done this spring, the courage of department chairs and others who have taken a public stand, and the energy of campus union leaders.

I look forward to building what could be a historic campaign with you.

In unity,
Barbara Bowen
President, PSC/CUNY

P.S. Watch for details of another date coming up next week: on Wednesday, June 10, the NYC City Council Higher Education Committee will hold a remote hearing on the impact of the COVID-19 emergency on CUNY. The union will send out information about how to sign up to speak.

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