Opposing austerity; demanding respect
PSC President Barbara Bowen at the union’s March 24 action outside the governor’s Manhattan offices.
Here is the union’s plan for reaching an acceptable contract settlement:
- During the next six weeks, the PSC expects to be in intensive contract negotiations with CUNY management, with the assistance of the mediator assigned as a result of the impasse declaration. Our aim is to reach an agreement that can be presented to Governor Cuomo and the Legislature before the end of the legislative session in mid-June, with the expectation that it will be fully funded. On March 31, Governor Cuomo’s budget director said publicly that funding for the PSC would be addressed when a contract agreement is reached.
- At the same time, the union will continue to build the leverage we need — and become prepared for further action if necessary — by holding the strike authorization vote. The vote will be held from May 2 through May 11, with results announced on May 12.
- Because we are serious about reaching an agreement through negotiations within the current legislative session, the union leadership will not initiate any strike or job action before the end of the academic year. If we get the strong “yes” vote on strike authorization we expect, and if we subsequently decide that a strike or job action is necessary, the action will take place no earlier than the fall.
I am writing now to ask you to give the union bargaining team the strongest possible support as we enter into what we hope will be the final stage of negotiations. You can do that by joining the thousands of union members who have publicly pledged to vote “yes” to authorize a decision to initiate a strike. We will publish the names of those who have pledged a “yes” vote before the voting begins on May 2. Make sure your name is there by signing up here. (No need to sign if you have done so already — we’ve got you.)
Think about what just happened at California State University. The faculty union held a strike authorization vote last fall, and 94 percent of voters said “yes.” The union then announced that a five-day strike would take place across the huge Cal State system in April. On April 7, less than a week before the strike was scheduled to begin, the university administration met the union’s key demand for a higher salary increase.
Political conditions and the legal environment in California are different from ours in New York, but a strong strike authorization vote and the organizing that goes with it could give us similar power. The PSC leadership is committed to achieving a fair contract without a strike, but we cannot stop organizing — that is the lesson of Cal State.
Our organizing this year has already given us power. Since last December, PSC members have sent 14,000 messages to Albany. We have held 156 meetings with legislators, and another 104 jointly with students. We have demonstrated at Milliken’s apartment, at CUNY headquarters, on our campuses and at the governor’s office. We have organized nearly 100 faculty, staff and students in civil disobedience protests. We have joined an alliance with community, labor and student groups, and we have listened as 50 CUNY writers shared their work in a reading against austerity. Throughout, we have gained enormous public and media support.
The result is that our contract, even though it was not funded as part of the State budget, is recognized by Albany as an issue that must be addressed. The PSC leadership hopes to build on that recognition and bring the negotiation process to completion within the next two months. We will work with CUNY negotiators and with allies and legislators to achieve that goal. While we cannot promise that we will achieve all we want, we will be strategic and unrelenting in pursuit of a funded contract settlement.
A Big Fight
Do your part! Vote “yes” on strike authorization between May 2 and May 11, and watch for messages about continuing pressure on Albany. You will soon receive full information about how to cast your ballot electronically, by phone or by mail
This is a big fight; that’s why it is so hard. We are demanding more investment in public higher education when the trend is to educate on the cheap. We are standing for economic justice — for our students as well as ourselves — in a time of crushing economic inequality. I believe we are in a position to win.