Debating and examining the pay increases
After a lively debate and discussion of the tentative contract during a Special Delegate Assembly on November 7 at the Times Square Sheraton Hotel, delegates voted resoundingly to send the proposed memorandum of agreement to the full membership for ratification.
The proposal is a complicated one, and chapters have been holding meetings to discuss the proposed deal with members. At the Special DA, delegates heatedly discussed the major changes to adjunct pay, which will result in a substantial boost in salary for part-time instructors over the life of the contract.
Robert Farrell, the Lehman College PSC chapter chair, told Clarion, “Every contract is a step towards an ideal, and I think this contract makes some giant steps on a number of issues, particularly adjunct salary…The fact that we are seeing between 20 to 70% raises in that category of worker is historic.”
Susan Kang, a delegate from John Jay College, said, “As a full-time, tenured faculty member I’m happy to see that the largest gains went to our lowest-paid teaching staff. I’ve run a master’s program and a lot of our teaching is done by adjuncts. It’s nice to be able to offer something better for adjuncts who contribute so much to our students.”
The bargaining team, who sat facing the delegates to hear their questions and comments about the contract, also heard from several delegates who objected to the terms of the contract and urged the body not to send the proposal to the members. While a handful of member observers attempted to disrupt the meeting with heckling, many of the dissenters voiced their opposition with messages of solidarity and with concern that the gains for adjuncts did not come close enough to the demands the members had put forward two years ago.
Retiree delegate Glenn Kissack said, “There are times when a [labor] regime is so odious that it compels us to stand and say ‘no’ to what it produces. Because $5,500 a course still doesn’t pay all the bills; because the labor of adjuncts, non-teaching adjuncts and CLTs deserves better; and because students shouldn’t have to suffer in a city with a record number of billionaires.”
Some delegates were concerned about the elimination of salary steps for some instructors.
Others asked whether the paid office hour for adjuncts was an increase in the adjunct workload. Others protested that the raise would still not be enough for educators in New York City. Some urged a “no” vote at the DA in order to send a message to CUNY: what was offered to workers wasn’t good enough.
Other delegates, however, spoke about their pride in a contract that prioritized addressing inequality, even as they acknowledged that much remains to be accomplished. Bargaining team members answered questions about the annual 2% increases, and addressed several questions on the replacement of salary steps for teaching adjuncts with new single rates. The new single rate, they explained, was negotiated in the context of raises for adjunct faculty averaging 45%. Because adjuncts move up in steps only once every three years, thousands of adjuncts remain on the lowest step. The contract prioritizes lifting the floor, they said.
John Gallagher, an HEO delegate from Borough of Manhattan Community College, pointed out that some of the lower-paid full-time titles were getting a boost beyond the pattern in the MOA. “Getting out-of-pattern increases in pay on the steps for my assistant to HEO, CLT and lecturer colleagues is a real accomplishment,” he said. “Two percent isn’t enough when you are on the lower lines, so this is a really big deal.”
The vote at the DA was cast by a simple show of cards, as delegates voted against a roll-call vote. Nearly 200 members voted in the affirmative and 20 voted no.
Many delegates agreed that the biggest priority was to put the contract before the membership. Delegates said they hoped the pathbreaking settlement for more pay for adjuncts in an age of intense austerity would allow the union to build solidarity and power to push for more funding for CUNY and to build upon these gains in upcoming contract talks. As Peter Dudek, an adjunct associate professor and Hunter College delegate, said, “I do believe [the MOA] positions us for a stronger next round of bargaining.”
BREAKING THE PATTERN
While many members appreciated the concerns brought up by delegates who voted no, the consensus at the DA was that the members will see a significant movement of money to titles who need the boost the most.
“The MOA drives money to some of the lowest-paid ranks in our bargaining unit, with significant lifts, in creative ways that provide a structure from which we can expand in the future,” said Meg Feeley, an adjunct lecturer at Kingsborough Community College, who also served on the bargaining team. “We will continue to push funding to CUNY in ways that benefit students directly. We came together, across titles, as a union to accomplish this, and I believe the solidarity that is manifested in this contract is the basis for the political power to accomplish more.”
PSC President Barbara Bowen thanked the bargaining team and delegates for their hard work. After the vote, she said, in a statement to the entire bargaining unit, “If the agreement is ratified, our raises, back pay and other provisions will go into effect following final approval by the CUNY Board. Salaries will go up, equity increases will be added for thousands of lower-paid full-time employees, and 12,000 adjunct faculty will see a major boost in pay.”
Bowen added, “This was a hard-fought contract, and thousands of PSC members joined the campaign. The gains in the agreement would not have been possible without your support. The proposed contract does not achieve everything we demanded or deserve, and it doesn’t solve the problem of austerity. But it offers new hope at CUNY and it gives us a platform on which to build even greater power.”
Shomial Ahmad provided reporting.