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Home » Clarion » 2023 » December 2023 » Union muscle helps reelect Brannan

Union muscle helps reelect Brannan

A CUNY ally in City Council By ARI PAUL

Justin Brannan (Credit: Dave Sanders)

Justin Brannan (Credit: Dave Sanders)

South Brooklyn City Council Member Justin Brannan’s reelection in November over Republican Ari Kagan is a major victory for the labor movement and the Democratic Party. And Brannan’s reelection campaign received quite a bit of blood, sweat and tears from rank-and-file PSC members.

“This is not just the reelection of any council member,” said Jen Gaboury, the PSC chapter chair at Hunter College, a PSC legislative activist and a resident of south Brooklyn. “He is the chair of the finance committee, and he has gone above and beyond to be an ally for CUNY in the last round of funding.”


Gaboury and other PSC activists helped recruit nearly two dozen other PSC members to volunteer for Brannan’s campaign. Brannan was a key target for the Republican right. Kagan had the support of the New York Post editorial board and losing GOP mayoral candidate and infamous vigilante Curtis Sliwa. Losing Brannan as finance committee chair could have had dire consequences for city funding for CUNY, which, along with city agencies, has been targeted by Mayor Eric Adams’s Program to Eliminate the Gap (PEG) cuts.

Brannan was instrumental in helping CUNY avert the worst of the PEG cuts, and he helped direct funding for new campus advisors at the PSC’s urging, Gaboury said. “It really matters to us that we have an ally who is willing to discuss our needs,” she said.

Last year, Brannan sponsored a Council resolution urging the state legislature to pass the New Deal for CUNY, the PSC’s landmark bill that would fund new full-time faculty and staff at CUNY as well as make CUNY tuition-free again. Not long after that, he worked with Council Speaker Adrienne Adams to announce the CUNY Reconnect program, which works to reenroll students who left CUNY before achieving a degree (see story, page 5).

Brannan’s stewardship of the finance committee will become especially important now that the mayor is seeking deeper cuts to nearly all city services, including public education. The union focused on protecting Brannan’s seat to advance its progressive agenda for the city’s public institutions, including CUNY. In a joint statement with Speaker Adams, Brannan said of the mayor’s most recent budget cuts, “The administration’s approach of reducing budgets of all agencies broadly through additional cuts and a hiring freeze, along with inflicting cuts on our libraries, CUNY and cultural institutions, is too blunt and not the prudent or sole choice.”


PSC members understood that Brannan’s reelection campaign was not only about keeping the southern Brooklyn seat in the Democrat column, but part of a citywide campaign.

“We had people who do not live in Brooklyn come and make phone calls with us, and come and knock on doors,” Gaboury said.


The union’s energetic grassroots reelection effort included Justyna Jagielnicka, a veteran PSC political outreach activist and mental health counselor at Borough of Manhattan Community College. She said, “I came out all the way from Staten Island to support Councilman Brannan’s campaign. He is a friend and an ally of CUNY students, staff and faculty. He understands the value of a People’s CUNY.”

Lynn Schulman, a City Council member in Queens, also won her reelection with PSC support. Schulman has worked closely with the PSC in its campaign to protect retiree health benefits from privatization.

For Gaboury, who has worked on competitive city and state races in Brooklyn, Brannan’s victory was also personal. “As someone who lives in southern Brooklyn, this was hugely important,” she said.

Published: December 20, 2023 | Last Modified: December 21, 2023

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