Break with the Dems
On Tuesday, November 8, like thousands of other New Yorkers, I cast my ballot for Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. I voted for the Green Party not only because it has the most progressive, pro-labor platform of any major party on the ballot, but because a vote for the Green Party represents a vote against the neoliberal consensus of free markets and the ongoing privatization and austerity of the Democratic and Republican parties.
Therefore, I was disappointed, but not really surprised, to receive an email from Mike Fabricant only a day earlier, breathlessly urging me and other PSC members to vote for the Wall Street-backed candidates Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer. Being asked to support these two clear enemies of working people was bad enough, but what I found most annoying was that I was being asked to do so on the ballot line of the ironically named Working Families Party, which has effectively operated as little more than a cheerleader for the New York Democratic Party and its candidates, including our current governor, Andrew Cuomo, who threatened to cut hundreds of millions of dollars from the budget of CUNY as part of a cynical ploy to undermine the union’s ongoing contract struggle earlier this year.
Even in an election between the two most unpopular candidates in history, even in an election where the representatives of a truly progressive anti-capitalist party stood a chance of making historic gains, our union chose to continue its failed policy of supporting the Democratic Party in the seeming hope of wringing from them some small future concessions. And, yet, such concessions never materialize. Despite Clinton’s one term in the senate and Schumer’s long tenure as a New York senator, state and city funding for CUNY has continued to decline dramatically as a percentage of CUNY’s overall budget. As almost everyone knows, but few seem willing to admit, the Democratic Party is not a friend of labor and has not been for decades, and the longer we support them, the longer we compromise any chance of building any real political power that is grounded in our role as laborers and not lobbyists.
It is time the PSC and the United Federation of Teachers stopped endorsing the party of corporate America and its allies (the WFP), and instead used its members’ dues to support movements and political alliances with other unions and working people everywhere to build a real workers’ alternative to the two-party system that has fought so long to privatize public education and undermine the power of labor unions.
James Dennis Hoff, Borough of Manhattan Community College
Make the rich pay
The October Clarion’s special article “How cost-cutting and austerity affect our schooling,” by Michael Fabricant and Stephen Brier, is replete with lament: “economic crisis,” “disinvestment,” “intensifying scarcity,” “ever starker revenue generation,” “enforcing austerity” and “austerity policy-making” are some of the piece’s terms.
Suppose, however, that the amassed wealth of the 1 percent living in the country’s richest city is meagerly taxed. (Newspaper and magazines report regularly and precisely on such tax abuses. Even The New York Times (3/16/16) opines that the hemorrhaging of New York tax money is rampant and must stop.)
Suppose, then, that money to fairly fund CUNY is available and that austerity is, in fact, a myth and that a kleptocracy lives and prospers in our city.
Suppose, further, the PSC decides to track down the money everyone knows is there and doggedly documents the enormous tax losses…with specificity. (There’s no “supposing” that the PSC counts many of the best math minds in the country among its members!) The PSC leadership, thus armed with the research (the “arithmetic,” we used to say) would thus lament less about “austerity” and “an economic crisis” by showing where the money is and exactly who isn’t paying fair taxes.
Suppose, finally, with accounting records in hand, the PSC demands a stop to the tax drain. It would be a way to replace the tears with a solid, creative action.
Bill Duncan, Kingsborough Community College, retired
I have been a dedicated adjunct professor for almost a quarter of a century and this semester I suddenly and arbitrarily had one of my scheduled classes taken away from me, resulting in my being cut off from health insurance. This happened just as I was coming home from a rehab facility as a newly disabled person.
Now I am unable to pay for the home safety and mobility equipment, follow-up doctor visits and home health aide that I literally need to survive. While the PSC continues to congratulate itself on the new contract, I hope its full-time members consider the price paid by the part-time faculty for their gains.
I also hope that all adjuncts who voted in favor of the new contract realize how foolish that was. By not holding out for minimum class commitments based on seniority, an elevated base pay of $5,000 per class and improvements in health insurance eligibility, we have shot ourselves in the foot. I have given more than half of my life to CUNY and now I don’t know how I am going to manage to continue to live.
John Angeline, John Jay College
PSC President Barbara Bowen responds: Your letter is heartbreaking. I agree that it is unconscionable that a person could give more than half his life to working at CUNY and then be treated as a disposable employee. CUNY’s adjunct system is based not only on low salaries but also on a total lack of job protection. Management has created a workforce of people whose jobs they can cut and lives they can ruin at a moment’s notice.
It is exactly for that reason that the union prioritized job security for adjuncts in this contract. The three-year appointments we negotiated are not perfect and they do not provide full security, but they will protect thousands of adjuncts from what just happened to you. I know that is hardly a comfort now, but it was because of situations like yours that the union held out until we achieved agreement on greater adjunct job security.
Where I disagree with you is in the assertion that the gains made by full-timers in the new contract came at the expense of adjuncts. In fact, the leverage of full-time faculty and staff was what enabled the PSC to hold out for job security gains for adjuncts. In a total contract settlement that just kept up with inflation, there was no ability to carve out additional money to lift adjunct wages. Doing that will take more than one contract; it will require an overhaul of CUNY’s budget – something the union is fighting for now.
I wish you well with your recovery.