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Home » Clarion » 2018 » September 2018 » Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Leaving out top faculty

I am a life member of the PSC. My grandfather was a labor organizer and he was a proud member of the Workmen’s Circle.

I am not active in the union, and I don’t want to be. I feel privileged to teach at Baruch, but teaching, writing and service are privilege enough.

Our union appears not to represent me or my interests. I don’t view our role as one of political activism. I am not an adjunct. I am not a CLT or a HEO. But I am a hardworking, loyal professor of 35 years who has been at the top of this crappy salary scale for over 20 years. The best the union ever seems to want for me and my senior-faculty colleagues is a meager cost-of-living adjustment. I already teach 18 credits, so that concession on teaching load didn’t mean anything for me.

I understand CUNY does not want to pay us what we deserve. But I am practical, I am economically orientated, and I am a damn good advocate and negotiator. I do not believe the union is negotiating for me; its concerns, efforts and goals always lie elsewhere. When CUNY comes to terms with the PSC, there will only be so much money in the package. Senior faculty will again get short shrift if your agenda is achieved.

My union needs to make primary the problem of salary for senior faculty. I cannot remember a single email from the union saying you will advocate for me and colleagues like me. Your message and focus is always about others at CUNY.

Adjunct professors are part-time. As good as they are, and as low as the wage, your focus on doubling their pay takes budget away from the possibility of restoration of real wages for senior faculty. In an age of limited resources, why do your longest-serving members get the least bargaining focus? We deserve better from the union to which we have paid dues the longest.

I also wish the union would lay off the politics. Our cause is just. The frequent references to “right wing” politics and the political diatribe detracts from our message. The rhetoric is unnecessary and divisive, and it turns me off.

For now, I’ll stay a member, out of respect for my Zayde.

Seth E. Lipner
Baruch College

PSC President Barbara Bowen responds: Thank you for your letter, and my thanks to your grandfather and his generation of courageous labor organizers. I disagree that senior faculty have received “short shrift.” Take another look at how the union represents you. The last issue of Clarion, for example, led with an account of the union’s presentation in bargaining of the need for an increase in full-time salaries. It showed the detailed analyses we presented of the erosion of CUNY salaries over the last 40 years and of the reasons our salaries have lost ground in comparison with those at comparable institutions. The bargaining team has made it clear that addressing all salaries and making CUNY salaries competitive is our priority. Think back to the last contract: when the union’s activism and organizing broke the deadlock and won $250 million in back pay, senior faculty at the top of the salary schedule received the greatest benefit because the raises were based on percentages. And think back further to the 2007-2010 contract when the union negotiated an additional increase on the top step for every title. Or think to the 2002-2007 contract when the union won sabbaticals at 80 percent pay, a higher rate than most private universities. The PSC has strongly represented full-time faculty.

What I really challenge in your analysis, however, is your assumption that the zero-sum economics of CUNY management are the only possible economic framework. Under our leadership the PSC has consistently pushed beyond the framework of austerity and demanded increased funding for CUNY. The current campaign to provide a fair wage at long last to adjuncts – who now teach the majority of CUNY courses – is based on the premise that zero-sum economics are not sufficient. The union leadership has made it clear at the bargaining table and to state and city governments that providing a fair adjunct wage will require investment over and above the contract settlement. I believe that we can win that argument, and that doing so will benefit not only adjuncts and their students, but the entire membership. All of our work is devalued when management can pay anyone a poverty wage. Raising adjunct salaries, or improving working conditions for CLTs, or anything else the union does that directly affects lower-paid members lifts conditions for all. Stick with the union.

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