Using various actions and tactics
The message hung over the streets of Manhattan and on campus buildings in the outer boroughs. It fluttered in the wind by the East River. It rang out in chants citywide and on sidewalk pickets as trucks honked their horns in solidarity.
PSC rank-and-file members have spent the spring voicing their outrage and calling on the state and city to provide adequate funding for CUNY, and for CUNY to reach a fair contract with the union. In the month of April different chapters held informational pickets, and on April 11 members around the city engaged in a variety of actions to bring attention to CUNY’s plight.
The City Tech chapter held a banner drop on the Manhattan Bridge and Baruch held one in the atrium of the vertical campus building. The Graduate Center chapter dropped a banner at their campus in late March.
The Brooklyn College chapter hosted a faculty kickball game in the main quad while banners dropped from several buildings, and members at LaGuardia Community College formed a midday informational picket outside one of the college’s main entrances.
These actions came after chapters at Hostos Community College, College of Staten Island and Borough of Manhattan Community College also held contract rallies and “grade-ins,” where members grade papers and do other work in public, outside administrative offices, in order to call attention to the amount of work members do outside of classroom instruction and office hours.
And on May 1 members marked International Workers’ Day by wearing red on campus for the nationwide “Red for Ed” educational workers’ movement.
James Davis, PSC chapter chair at Brooklyn College and PSC Executive Council member, said of the campus’s kickball game, “Contract campaigns can be a grind,” adding, “it was a fun, collaborative way to spread the union’s message on campus and revitalize for the struggle ahead.”
OVER TROUBLED WATER
Ben Shepard, the PSC chapter chair at City Tech, himself no stranger to transgressive direct action, commented on the banner drop on the Manhattan Bridge, “It felt so good to get that message out to the larger community of City Tech and CUNY graduates. As soon as the banner drop was done and tweeted out, we started getting supportive tweets from graduates and students.”
Maya Harakawa of the Graduate Center chapter said of her campus’s banner drop, “We wanted to leverage our central and highly visible location and have an action that was public-facing. Ultimately, if we are going to win full funding for CUNY, the people of New York City must see the fight for CUNY as their fight.”
The actions drew student support, too. At Baruch, as PSC members unfurled two banners over the main atrium in the 55 Lexington Avenue building, students joined the union protest, with one shouting, “fix the elevators!”
“I personally think that these teachers have to put up with a lot,” Andres Aguirre, a freshman studying finance at Baruch, told Clarion. “There needs to be more incentive for them to stay at the job.”
And Navjot Kaur, a senior studying political science, added, “The union is fighting for me. If professors are paid well, they can give students their undivided attention. Students need to stand in solidarity with faculty.”
Shomial Ahmad contributed reporting.