Contract Unity Day
Thursday, March 14
Tell us you'll be there to tell Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio to end the CUNY funding crisis.
WAKE UP CALL RALLY 8 AM
Gov. Cuomo’s NYC Office
633 Third Ave., at 41st Street
PRESS CONFERENCE & RALLY 11 AM
Steps of City Hall
Reject CUNY’s zero-sum-game contract approach.
Demand State and City funding for real raises for all CUNY faculty and staff and an end to near-poverty adjunct pay.
New Development in Contract Negotiations -- 2/22/19
Yesterday afternoon, after my update on bargaining was sent out, CUNY management made an economic offer to the union. The PSC bargaining team has not yet had a technical meeting with management on the numbers, and we did not receive the offer in writing, so this will be a preliminary report.
It's thanks to union members' relentless pressure that management put an offer on the table. The PSC bargaining team acknowledged to management that making an offer is an important step in progress toward a settlement, and that we welcomed economic discussion. But the offer we received yesterday does not meet members' needs.
The main challenge of this round of bargaining is to secure the additional funding necessary to raise CUNY's disgraceful adjunct pay while also providing acceptable annual salary increases for all. Management's offer fails to rise to the challenge. Their offer does include a higher proposed increase for teaching adjuncts than we have seen in the past—and that is a breakthrough. Our message has been heard. But the increase for teaching adjuncts falls thousands of dollars short of $7,000 per course, and the money to pay for it appears to come from reducing the anticipated increases for all other full-time and part-time employees.
It's the same zero-sum-game approach we have seen too many times at CUNY. Instead of expanding the University's funding so that everyone could have a decent raise and the urgent need of higher adjunct pay could be addressed, management proposes further austerity. The offer appears to propose that most PSC members take below-inflation "increases" in order to make up for historic underfunding of CUNY by the City and State. That is not an acceptable solution for teaching adjuncts or for full-time faculty, professional staff and other part-timers.
Our response as a union must be to demand the funding CUNY needs. We need to stand together and insist that a problem resulting from decades of underfunding cannot be solved by more underfunding. Unity is the key. Without it, austerity wins and we all end up with less.
In the coming weeks, the bargaining team will meet with management to discuss the details of the economic offer, and we also plan to provide a formal response to their offer at the next bargaining session. Most important, members across the university are taking action on their own campuses to increase the pressure for increased funding for our contract. Click here to contact your chapter chair and join actions on your campus, and watch for updates about how to join the campaign for the contract we all need.
We are at a critical moment in the contract campaign. Both State and City budgets are being decided, and hundreds of PSC members are working to ensure that the final budgets include increased CUNY funding.
The moment is critical also because pressure is building within our own union, and nationally, for justice for teachers and students. The PSC’s ambitious contract agenda is aligned with the movement of K-12 teachers for the resources both teachers and students deserve.
Meanwhile the CUNY trustees have finally named a new chancellor. The day after Félix Matos Rodríguez was appointed, the union made it clear that his success will depend heavily on whether he is able to resolve our contract.
So the stakes are high, and it’s time for an account of where we stand.
First, what we are fighting for:
This contract is about salary gains and salary equity.
Our bargaining agenda focuses on four urgent needs, encompassing every member of the faculty and professional staff:
1. Salary increases across the board, with back-pay
2. Additional equity increases for the lowest-paid full-time positions, including Lecturers and CLTs
3. A breakthrough on adjunct pay to $7,000 minimum per course
4. Non-economic improvements to make CUNY more livable: protections of our rights using educational technology; free CUNY tuition for the children of full-time employees; contract language against bullying; restructured graduate assistantships; paid family leave to add to the existing paid parental leave; and more.
In addition, we want to consolidate and improve on gains made in the last contract, especially the reduction in the teaching load, the HEO assignment differential, and the adjunct three-year appointment.
The PSC has also ensured that an issue at the center of most current American labor battles, increased healthcare costs, will not be part of our negotiations. The union’s Welfare Fund is strong, and the PSC is part of a citywide labor coalition that has maintained the option of premium-free health insurance.
Where we stand in negotiations:
After 15 formal bargaining sessions and many informal meetings, the union has presented each of our demands and reams of data in support. Many PSC members have attended bargaining sessions as observers, and some have added testimony at the bargaining table in support of specific demands. The union bargaining team has heard management on their demands and has begun to respond.
But in order for the two sides to make serious progress, we need an economic offer from management. To date, no offer has been made. The PSC is increasing our pressure for an offer that responds to our demands.
Why the demand for 7K is a demand for every member:
Raising adjunct pay to a minimum of $7,000 per course would have a dramatic effect on adjuncts. But it would also be a win for everyone, including students.
CUNY’s low pay for adjuncts and increasing reliance on adjunct labor hurts everyone economically. We have a shared interest in ending the disgraceful underpayment of adjuncts, whether we are full-time faculty, professional staff members or other CUNY workers. Management’s ability to pay anyone a substandard wage depresses everyone’s pay. All of our work is devalued when anyone can be paid just $3,222 for teaching a college course. And the workload of every full-time faculty or staff member is increased because adjuncts cannot be on campus full time.
Students suffer from adjuncts’ underpayment because adjuncts have to run out after class to other part-time jobs in order to make ends meet. Adjuncts are not paid to invest the time students need, although many of them do.
Equal pay for equal work is always a victory. Ending the scandal of adjunct pay would be a moral victory and a victory for the quality of education. But it would also be a material gain for everyone who works at CUNY. That’s why it’s everyone’s fight.
Where we stand in the contract campaign:
PSC members have been in the streets, at the State Capitol, at CUNY Board meetings and in campus protests throughout the year since our last contract expired. We have steadily built pressure on CUNY management, Albany and City Hall. Every campus chapter has been asked to organize at least one protest action on campus this spring.
The next six weeks are critical. The State budget is due to be finalized by April 1, and the City budget is being negotiated. Hundreds of other groups are pressing the Legislature to address their issues; we must speak up with enough force to ensure that funding for CUNY becomes a priority. If you haven’t yet taken the simple step of sending a message to your representative, why wait any longer? Please send your message now.
If you haven’t yet signed up to be part of a campus action, contact your chapter chair and let him or her know that you want to be included. Several chapters are holding “grade-ins” to make our labor, particularly adjuncts’ labor, visible. Others are showing up at public events held on campus and letting visitors know what the labor situation is at CUNY. Others are holding meetings, teach-ins and informational pickets.
Meanwhile 600 adjuncts are logging the hours they spend working for every class they teach, thousands of members and students have signed petitions for a fair contract, more than 100 members have traveled to Albany to press their legislators, union leaders have been arrested in civil protest, and the PSC is making our case in the press. Each action we do collectively builds the union’s power for the next one. Mark your calendar for April 11, when the union will hold a mass event.
Who speaks for the PSC:
As members, you have elected union leadership for your campus, your chapter and the PSC as a whole. We are leading an intense and important campaign. We welcome efforts by members to seek to influence union policy through the democratic process and to raise hard questions. That’s exactly what should happen in a vibrant union. But we will not ignore attempts by some members to represent themselves as the union leadership and mislead other members.
Some members have attempted to create the impression that the position of the union as a whole is “7K or Strike.” They have printed signs intended to be mistaken for PSC signs and misrepresented the union’s position in social media and reports on chapter resolutions.
The elected leaders of the union recognize the intense commitment of these members to our shared goal, and we welcome their energy for the fight. But “7K or Strike” is not the position of the PSC leadership and not the position voted on by the bargaining team directly involved in negotiations or the delegates elected to represent you.
The question of a strike should never be off the table for a serious union, even for a public-sector union in New York State, where such strikes are illegal. Especially in this legal climate, however, a union should not undertake a strike without profound respect for the membership and a clear strategy on how a strike would succeed.
Why we need to work together:
In the last round of bargaining, after six years of CUNY’s stalling, the PSC held a carefully planned strike authorization vote following democratic votes in our Executive Council and Delegate Assembly. Union members collectively held thousands of one-on-one conversations with other members to explain what a strike would mean, why it could be the right thing to do, and why we needed support. The result was decisive. Members voted by 92% to authorize the union leadership to call a strike if necessary.
If the PSC gets to a point in bargaining in this round where a strike authorization could be necessary, we will have an open discussion and a vote in the Delegate Assembly on whether to take that step. The PSC leadership would never consider a strike without one-to-one conversations with every sector of the membership, without honest discussion with members about what a strike entails, without a plan for how to handle the severe legal and economic penalties a strike would trigger for the union, and without a sober assessment of what the union would stand to gain in a strike versus what we would risk losing.
Withholding labor is a uniquely powerful weapon of labor unions. The political and moral effect of a strike can extend far beyond the workers who participate directly. That is one of the clear lessons of labor history and of the beautiful and brilliant teachers’ strikes in the past two years. New York State’s ban on public-sector strikes is a profound abrogation of our rights, and should be repealed, especially now that the federal law on labor unions has been changed. The PSC delegates recently reaffirmed our position on the Taylor Law and voted to work systematically to end its prohibition on strikes.
Where we go from here:
The fight for this contract and $7K for adjuncts is an epochal fight. If we win--when we win—we will have transformed our entire workplace. To make that happen, we need every member working together. I call on all members to join the actions being organized by the union leadership on your campus and in the University as a whole. On some campuses, this is happening already.
The PSC leadership is serious about winning $7K for adjuncts and every other demand we are advancing—so serious that we know the importance of having everyone deliver the same message and participate in the same campaign. That’s the only way we will win—for all of us. Start right now by contacting your chapter chair and signing on for the fight.