In this year’s executive budget proposal, Governor Andrew Cuomo has included support for CUNY’s mandatory costs – including adjunct health coverage. PSC President Barbara Bowen called it “great news for the start of the new year” in a report to union delegates in January.
“This is a major step,” and we got here because thousands of members demanded that CUNY to do the right thing,” said Bowen. “The inclusion of this funding recognizes, at last, that health insurance for eligible adjuncts is a mandatory cost for the University. But funding is not yet secure. Now we must work to ensure that it remains in the final budget.”
“An unfair burden is placed on the thousands of part-time faculty…who teach the majority of CUNY courses, usually without the support or compensation they deserve,” Bowen testified at a February budget hearing. “Stable funding for the ongoing expense of health insurance for eligible adjuncts” is essential to CUNY’s ability to provide education, she said – as basic as heat in the classrooms or electricity in a computer lab.
The union is also seeking additional operating funding for CUNY, to help repair the damage from past years of budget cuts (see page 3). But continued funding for mandatory costs, which has not been assured in the past, is seen as a crucial starting point.
“I tell my students that the funding we get for CUNY, we only get because we go up and push these legislators,” said Adam Tripp, an adjunct lecturer in economics at Bronx Community College. “It’s not because someone just decides to be nice to us. We have to tell them about our struggles, and let them know we’re looking for their support.”
Tripp has signed up to join with other PSC members in a grassroots lobbying effort, meeting with legislators in the Capitol and in their home districts in New York City. “I first got involved with the union last spring,” Tripp told Clarion, when he joined union and student delegations going to Albany. “It was a good experience, to be there in solidarity with each other and make sure that we were heard.”
“The CUNY administration has made adjuncts indispensable to the running of the University, but has consistently failed to adequately compensate them or provide them with reasonable job security,” said Alex Vitale, associate professor of sociology at Brooklyn College. “This is a big step forward, but numerous challenges remain.”
“I know someone who’s taught at CUNY as an adjunct for many years, who needs medication to stay alive,” said Troy Anderson, an adjunct lecturer in English at LaGuardia. “It sounds dramatic, but health coverage is a serious issue – and in some cases it’s literally a matter of life and death.”
Continued health coverage for all faculty is important for CUNY students, Anderson added. “If we start losing our basic benefits, a lot of good teachers will leave CUNY for other work,” he said, “especially since we don’t get that much money in the first place.”
Connie Gemson, an adjunct who has taught at LaGuardia for 15 years, urged PSC members to join the union’s grassroots lobbying effort (see TK). “This is our chance to make our priorities known,” Gemson told Clarion.