A transformative roadmap for CUNY
President James Davis calls for more state and city investment in CUNY at a rally with PSC members and CUNY students.
At the same time that the PSC has been in motion on immediate pressing issues, we have been looking ahead. Though it may seem like a long time from now, our contract’s expiration in February 2023 will be upon us before we know it. With Governor Andrew Cuomo gone, we have new opportunities with the state executive, and a new mayor of New York City too. The New Deal for CUNY has 57 sponsors among state politicians already and the support of community allies.
Our goal is that by the Spring 2023 semester, when the current contract expires, the union will have the power and capacity to get the New Deal for CUNY fully passed and implemented, win major new investment in CUNY through the state budget and settle a strong and just new contract. Through a campaign that combines increasing our internal organization and our external allies, we hope all members will join our renewed effort to transform CUNY into the people’s university it was founded to be.
The PSC Executive Council began a discussion of longer- and medium-term strategic planning this past summer, and has since been working in consultation with elected leaders and union activists throughout the University. Over 150 members participated in an online meeting about the strategic action plan on October 14, and on October 25, 400 members attended our hybrid event held at the same time as the CUNY Board of Trustees meeting. We want PSC members to be aware of the strategic action plan, to connect it with the needs we experience in our workplaces and the needs of our students, so that we can be involved in its realization. We also want to continue building our CUNY Rising Alliance across the city with students, alumni, and community and labor organizations. The role that students and our allies can play is pivotal. Together, we can make a flourishing CUNY a citywide goal. When realized, the PSC will be in a position to win a contract that will not only benefit our own members, but also our communities. We have long argued that “another university is possible.” We think that in the coming years we can win a contract and financial support that improves our work lives and assures that New York’s working-class students, who are predominantly students of color, will have a path to a top-notch education and from there, lives filled with opportunities that only such an education can create.
The cornerstone of the campaign is to develop member engagement at the campus level, seizing upon the extraordinary work members are doing around health and safety, contract enforcement, one-on-one phone banking, strike readiness, union membership and in our union-wide committees. Campus Action Teams are being formed to bring members together across different job titles, departments, areas of interest and administrative areas of each college.
CHANGES IN GOVERNMENT
The urgency to launch a strategic action plan comes in part from the opportunities for political realignments at the state and city level. While we must maintain pressure directly on CUNY to make tangible gains for our colleagues and students, Governor Kathy Hochul is the single most important individual when it comes to enhancing resources. She and Mayor-elect Eric Adams will need to hear from us regularly and with increasing vigor about the urgency of reversing years of racist austerity for CUNY. We need to be in a position to influence them, especially as the first competitive Democratic gubernatorial primary takes place while the new mayor negotiates his first budget with the City Council in Spring 2022. We aim to have at least 500 PSC members participating in an in-person budget rally Saturday, December 11, in advance of Governor Hochul’s announcement of the Executive Budget proposal in January.
That benchmark is one of several in the union’s strategic action plan. We are seeking to be both concrete, flexible and ambitious about our organizing targets. We have established goals for the percentage of departments and offices with members serving on their Campus Action Team, goals for the rates of union membership, goals for increased contributions to VOTE-COPE (our political action committee fund), and goals for the number of members participating in events with the CUNY Rising Alliance, among other key areas.
It is clear that despite the enormous challenges of the pandemic and the inequities that it laid bare around the city, there have been few moments in the past 20 years when our concerted action as unionists could make a greater or more immediate impact. We have already seen that the CUNY budget request drew upon elements of the New Deal for CUNY. During the pandemic, members have fought hard and won many victories that allowed CUNY students to continue to receive their education and allowed faculty and staff to improve their working conditions.
But we need the increased capacity to equal the potential of this moment. With PSC members in motion, our strategic action campaign for a people’s CUNY will be transformative.