Preparing for bargaining
What are your priorities for our next round of contract negotiations and what are you willing to do to win a great contract? These questions framed the PSC Contract Priorities Survey that the union sent to members in early May. The survey itself was developed with input from union members, leaders and PSC staff, by looking back at previous surveys and bargaining demands and through listening sessions and small-group breakout sessions at chapter meetings this spring (see article, “Listening to members, across CUNY).
NEW POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT
Our current PSC-CUNY contract expires at the end of February 2023. This will be the first time we’ll be bargaining with CUNY in the political context set by whoever wins the New York governor’s race in November 2022, and New York City Mayor Eric Adams. For the first time, we’ll be bargaining in the midst of a broad, public campaign to win a New Deal for CUNY. Needless to say, the experience of the pandemic has shaped our sense of what we want and need, as does inflation.
Many of the topics covered in the survey are familiar questions about pay, workload, job security and basic measures of respect. The survey also asked members to consider how our contract can better address structural racism at CUNY, including issues such as the racialized salary and benefits gaps that exist between titles or diversifying the higher ranks of the titles we represent.
The survey further considered health and safety, remote work and online teaching issues, which have a new salience and urgency for many of us today. And we asked you to consider whether using our contract as a vehicle through which to fight for student needs in areas like housing, transportation access, food insecurity and tuition was a priority for you.
Other more typical priorities considered by the survey included various questions regarding compensation (such as, longevity increases, teaching adjunct pay parity, equity raises and across-the-board salary increases), contingency (for example, dedicated lecturer lines for teaching adjuncts), promotion (like strengthening promotional opportunities for CLTs), workload (such as protections against out-of-title work), security (like shortening the time to attain job security through 13.3b for HEOs), respect (such as anti-bullying language), and professional enhancements (for example, improvements to the sick leave bank policy and expanded tuition waivers).
Most members were able to reflect on title-specific issues as well, many of which have come up before in previous rounds of bargaining. But some of the concerns are new and are made more important after our experience with the pandemic over the past two years.
Learning your thoughts about these topics is the primary goal of the survey, as it will inform the development of demands for the next round of bargaining. But critical to our future success at the bargaining table was the final, shorter part of the survey, which concerned how all of us can be part of the fight to win what we want. The survey asked members what they would be willing to do, including attending demonstrations, mobilizing colleagues through texts and phone banking, participating in PSC campus action teams and engaging in civil disobedience.
But pressure to get a good contract does not end there. Members could also testify at a CUNY Board of Trustees hearing, speak about a specific bargaining demand during a bargaining session with CUNY or attend a session as an observer. We also asked about the political pressure members are willing to assert in order to gain the funding for our demands, including writing or visiting lawmakers or becoming a political district representative.
We wanted to hear from as many members as possible. If you did not complete the survey early on, you may have noticed that you received a lot of notices in your inbox. The deadline for submitting the survey was June 24, but our work to find out about members’ contract priorities is not done. We invite all members to participate in one-on-one and small-group conversations that have been organized by members of the PSC campus action teams for this summer and fall. At the PSC Brooklyn College chapter, for example, union department representatives have been conducting walk-throughs, where they meet with colleagues in various offices to listen and talk about campus and university-wide priorities.
During much of the past two years of the pandemic, many of us have worked from home or on half-empty campuses. We’ve lost a lot of time we would have spent working alongside each other, hearing about our work experiences, getting to know each other better, and for our new colleagues who started during the pandemic, getting to know each other at all. Hearing from each other about needed workplace improvements is one critical way we have to reforge the connections that we have lost.
We will be sharing what we learn from the survey. It’s our hope that this will steer us in a good direction for both our contract demands and contract campaign next year, but the survey results will also help individual campuses identify the issues most pressing to their chapter members.
In order to win what we want in our contract – and for CUNY and our students – we need a strong contract campaign and must organize collectively. Together, we can create the CUNY we want to work in, and the “People’s University” our students and city deserve.