PSC delegates at a Special Delegate Assembly on July 29 approved a tentative contract with the CUNY RF that includes three 2% annual raises, additional equity raises for the lowest-paid workers, health benefits for some part-time workers and new anti-bullying language. The agreement now goes to Research Foundation members for a ratification vote.
Research Foundation Delegate Lori Rothstein hailed gains, which include raises, health benefits, and the establishment of an anti-bullying working group among other benefits for RF members in the newly proposed contract.
A statement from PSC organizers said, “One of the primary goals of the bargaining team was to win equity provisions for the part-time staff covered by the agreement. We were able to secure language that extends dental benefits and flex spending and pretax transit benefits to part-timers for the first time, as well as to get higher percentage wage increases for the lowest-earning workers. Of the approximately 450 bargaining unit members, 219 currently earn less than $20 per hour. Of these, 99 earn less than $16 per hour. While anyone currently earning $20 or more per hour would receive an annual increase of 2% if the memorandum of agreement is ratified, workers making less than $20 per hour would receive an annual increase of $.60 per hour, or 3–4% per hour depending on their current hourly rate.”
The contract resulted from months of member-led organizing at the Research Foundation – a private entity that primarily manages outside grants received by CUNY faculty – to demand equity increases and other benefits. RF members on the bargaining team successfully persisted in pressing their case to RF management, which had shown resistance to the demand for equity increases throughout the spring.
The bargaining team included union-level staffers Renee Lasher (Director of Contract Administration), Deirdre Brill (Organizing Director) and Brian Graf (Organizing Coordinator). Members on the committee included RF Chapter Chair Antonica James (City Tech), delegate Lori Rothstein (Graduate Center), Lena Hayes (LaGuardia), Tom Trocco (LaGuardia), Donna Capobianco (City Tech) and Teddy Cruz (City Tech).
The organizers’ statement said, “One of the other goals of the bargaining team was to make it easier for members to control their schedule and use of annual leave. This was an issue of major concern in our bargaining survey results. We were able to secure language that made it possible for both full- and part-timers to initiate more flexible work schedules. We were also able to get management to withdraw a demand limiting the amount of annual leave carryover from one year to the next.”
In a joint statement, James and Rothstein said, “This is the first completely renegotiated contract in the history of the units, the two previous contracts being extensions of the original. We are confident that the demands were thoroughly prepared, researched and bargained. While we were not able to achieve all of our demands during this bargaining cycle, the new contract demonstrates that progress towards equity in compensation, benefits and workplace policies is possible through member engagement and pressure.”
Rothstein said in an email to the Delegate Assembly, “Negotiations began in late March and the contract expired on June 30. The bargaining team met numerous times to strategize between sessions and we reported to the membership and asked for feedback as negotiations progressed. A member sign-on letter was crucial in pushing management to an actual equity increase – albeit a smaller one than we hoped for. We intend that it should set a precedent.”
Rothstein hailed the contract as “a step toward equity, yes for dental insurance for additional members, yes for gains towards flexible scheduling, yes for broader access to pretax accounts, and yes for an anti-bullying working group, so that next time around we may actually have anti-bullying language and procedures management will agree to.”
The contract ratification comes after months of intense negotiations between the PSC and the RF.