PSC members had the opportunity to talk openly and candidly to PSC principal officers and vice presidents at chapter listening sessions held across CUNY in April and May. Among those attending these meetings were the union’s four principal officers and vice presidents for senior colleges, community colleges, cross-campus units and part-time personnel. Elected PSC leaders had the opportunity to engage with PSC members to gather input, suggestions, concerns and contract priorities that will help guide bargaining in our upcoming contract negotiations. The current PSC-CUNY contract expires at the end of February 2023.
Listening plays an essential role in democracy, as it illustrates representation, recognition, power, legitimacy and at times silence depending on who is in the room, according to environmental political theorist Andrew Dobson. PSC members in every title had an opportunity to listen to each other about their colleagues’ personal experiences, frustrations and issues that affect their day-to-day working conditions. Craig Bernardini, the PSC Hostos chapter chair, asked members attending his chapter meeting, “What brings you joy in the work you do? What sucks the life and joy out of the work you do?”
These listening sessions took a variety of formats, with presentations from members in different titles, breakout rooms by titles or randomly assigned rooms with a report back to the entire chapter. The sessions aimed to provide an environment of mutual respect, where there was recognition that all titles are essential for the college to function effectively. Member voices at these listening sessions provided profound and meaningful input that offered a transparent picture of members’ needs, contract improvements and union organizing necessary to win contract gains, all with the goal to ensure that our contract priorities will positively impact all titles and units.
PSC officers noted a number of common themes that members cited: across-the-board pay increases and how inflation has impacted salaries. Union members spoke passionately about how inflation has outpaced salary gains in the past year. Full-time faculty, HEOs and CLTs discussed the challenges of doing more with less and talked about the need for more full-time hires and conversion lines. HEOs were vocal about the needs for flexible schedule options, given the current work climate due to the pandemic. Promotional series for HEOs and CLTs was another common theme, in addition to adjunct and part-time equity, adjunct job security and improvements to HEO reclassification. Input on many of the themes were also solicited in the PSC Contract Priorities Survey.
To all the members who participated in the chapter listening sessions, we, the elected union leadership, thank you for the insights, which are valued and much appreciated as we head into our contract campaign. The qualitative information collected from these listening sessions will be combined with the input gathered from the PSC Contract Priorities Survey in drafting contract demands.