At Columbia University, PSC members rally with striking graduate student workers and other UAW Local 2110 members. (Photo credit: Dave Sanders)
UC lecturers win
After voting to authorize a strike across the massive University of California system, 6,500 lecturers represented by the University Council-AFT (UC-AFT) secured a new agreement that lifts pay, adds jobs security and creates professional advancement opportunities for its members.
“It’s a huge win for us as a union. It’s a huge win for me personally,” John Branstetter, president of UC-AFT Los Angeles, told the Los Angeles Times. Branstetter is currently working three jobs. “It literally means I can keep my job. In the five years at UC, I’ve never had to not worry about getting rehired.”
The agreement establishes multi-year appointments in the first six years of teaching for lecturers, a pathway for promotion to senior continuing lecturer, a 30% average salary increase during the five-year contract, four weeks of fully paid family leave, and two additional weeks of fully paid pregnancy disability leave (to eight weeks total) for birth mothers, according to the UC-AFT’s website.
At the PSC, full-time and adjunct lecturers also have job security provisions. Lecturers covered by the PSC-CUNY contract are eligible for certificates of continuous employment after five years of continuous full-time service. Full-time lecturers also have job security protections effective one year from the date of their initial appointment. After one year of work, full-time lecturers are eligible for eight consecutive weeks of paid parental leave. Both full-time and adjunct faculty lecturers are eligible for New York State Paid Family Leave after working at CUNY for a certain amount of time. Adjunct lecturers are eligible for three-year and one-year appointments.
SUNY’s Malatras resigns
After dozens of state lawmakers called for his ouster, SUNY Chancellor James Malatras resigned on December 9 after an attorney general’s probe found that he had repeatedly insulted the first of many women to accuse former Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment.
Malatras was installed as chancellor in 2020 without a national search. He previously served as state operations director under Cuomo and is widely seen by critics as a loyalist to the former governor. Cuomo resigned due to allegations of sexual misconduct this past summer.
PSC members joined striking Columbia graduate student workers, members of UAW Local 2110, in solidarity for better pay and benefits. UAW Local 2110, which represents graduate student workers, researchers and other staff, went on strike November 3. According to a Newsweek report, Columbia University sent an email to 3,000 striking graduate student workers a month after the strike began, “threatening to permanently replace them if they [did] not return to their jobs.”
A tentative agreement struck between UAW Local 2110 and Columbia after a strike last Spring was rejected. The PSC urges members not to cross the picket line.
The New York Times noted, “Several union members said they have been pushing hard for higher wages to make it possible for more lower-income students to attend Columbia. The current pay scale, they said, shuts out potential students who cannot make a living on graduate student worker income alone.” The article went on to note, “The union is asking for a $45,000 wage floor for doctoral students on one-year contracts, with yearly increases of 3% in the second and third years,” as “yearly pay is as low as $29,000 for students at the School of Social Work, and peaks at about $41,500 for engineering students.”
Paid family leave
Good news: the state is expanding the list of family members a worker can care for under paid family leave (PFL). Siblings will now be included under the act, starting January 1, 2023.
As a statement from the PSC explained it, “Under State law, employees on PFL are paid 67% of their average weekly wage, up to a cap of 67% of the statewide average weekly wage (SAWW). The SAWW is calculated annually by New York State. Consistent with State law, PFL benefits are paid by an insurance carrier, not CUNY. PFL provides 12 weeks of leave in any 52-week period if the PFL is taken in weeklong segments, regardless of how many days per week normally worked each week. An eligible employee may take PFL in daylong increments rather than as whole weeks.”
The union considers this a major victory in terms of allowing members to take time to care for loved ones, and an especially important win during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read about the details of PFL at www.psc-cuny.org/benefits/paid-family-leave-frequently-asked-questions.
Saluting CUNY allies
The Belle Zeller awards, named for the PSC’s founding president, honored three elected officials who have supported CUNY and are also CUNY graduates. At a December 8 ceremony, Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez and PSC President James Davis offered greetings, and Attorney General Letitia James (Lehman College), State Senator Andrew Gounardes (Hunter College) and Assemblymember Karines Reyes (Baruch College) received the Friend of CUNY Award. Gounardes and Reyes co-authored the New Deal for CUNY. CUNY Law student Shilpa Jindia received the inaugural Barbara Bowen Scholarship, named after the PSC’s recent past president.