Member contributions to PSC/CUNY COPE, the union’s political action committee (PAC) fund, enhance the PSC’s political power and clout. Strategic deployment of these resources were an important part of the breakthrough last budget cycle, when then-Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed cuts were reversed and new money came into the system through an increase to the maximum TAP award. This year funds were used to support endorsed city candidates, and now the majority of the 50 candidates endorsed by the PSC are headed to city council, borough president seats and citywide office with PSC support.
“As part of the legislative committee arm of the PSC, [VOTE- COPE] supports the engagement, interviewing and endorsement of potential political candidates. We seek to understand their positions on issues central to the PSC’s progressive agenda, and the Legislative Committee decides whether to recommend endorsement,” said Renée Freeman-Butler, the union’s PSC/CUNY COPE coordinator.
During Membership Week, starting November 15, the union will be organizing to get more members to voluntarily contribute. Contributions to COPE are separate from union dues. Nearly 1,100 members already give to the fund, and the union hopes that 20 more members at each campus will sign up. A stronger fund will get more CUNY advocates into office and help them stay there.
“Having one-on-one conversations with members about VOTE- COPE is an important organizing tool, compelling us to explain our political program to thousands of members and invite them to participate in and shape it,” said Luke Elliott-Negri, the PSC legislative representative. “Just this year, the political terrain in New York has changed drastically. There is an opportunity in the near term to win big, structural changes to the CUNY funding model. VOTE-COPE is an essential tool to take advantage of the moment.”
In PSC’s organizing plan (see “PSC’s Plan for #APeoplesCUNY,” by PSC President James Davis) to build power both at the workplace and for funding CUNY, COPE contributions are essential. These funds help build awareness and support for the New Deal for CUNY and sharpen our union’s influence with key decision-makers. Contributions also support political allies who advocate for increases in CUNY funding for contractual raises, other contract gains and to support public higher education. COPE funds are focused on endorsing and getting candidates into office who align with the union’s goals; it focuses on the electoral – not legislative – process.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Along with the PSC’s state and national affiliates, NYSUT and AFT, contributions help secure policy on the state and federal levels to reverse the defunding of public education and secure a progressive agenda on labor rights and social justice.
Contributions are voluntary and are not required as part of union membership. Members can sign up for payroll deductions to contribute to the fund.
Freeman-Butler said, “VOTE-COPE is making a difference by coordinating the voluntary contributions of members to give voice and shape perspectives influencing candidates to support higher education, our students, the University and our members.”