PSC members take up an entire city block outside CUNY headquarters at an early morning demonstration on February 27. They demand that CUNY begin contract bargaining with the PSC. (Credit: Erik McGregor)
More than 500 CUNY faculty and staff gathered outside CUNY’s Midtown Manhattan headquarters in the early morning hours of February 27. It was a day before the PSC-CUNY contract expired, and members demanded that the administration begin negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the union.
At a table on the sidewalk in front of CUNY’s entrance as coffee-clutching commuters rushed by, members placed fists of approval ink stamps on a sign demanding the administration come to the table. PSC leaders, CUNY students, elected officials and labor allies addressed the crowd, voicing the PSC’s key demands: raises that go beyond inflation, remote work options for staff, increased benefits, pay parity and more job protection for adjuncts and key health and safety protections. This bargaining agenda is meant to enrich university life for students.
Yasmin Edwards, the PSC chapter chair at Bronx Community College, emphasized the urgent need for expanded contractual protections for health and safety, citing deplorable conditions at her college. She also noted that investments in CUNY’s faculty and staff are needed to educate the next generation of civil servants and civic leaders.
Carolina Bank Muñoz, the Brooklyn College PSC chapter chair, said that faculty and staff have faced numerous financial burdens, including higher rents and new expenses related to remote work as a result of the pandemic. CUNY pay scales, however, have failed to keep pace with other public university systems. “We don’t just deserve wage increases; we need them,” she said.
Bank Muñoz added that above inflation wage increases are necessary to recruit and retain people of color in faculty positions. “Our students deserve to have professors who look like them and understand their experience,” she said.
The demands were ratified by the union’s delegates during a meeting on February 2, after the union’s Executive Council and top leadership spent many months listening to members’ thoughts and concerns for a new contract. The demands can be found on pages 3–5 of this issue of Clarion.
Under the New York State civil service law, the terms of the previous agreement will stay in effect until a new contract is ratified and implemented.
The conditions of bargaining are complex. On the one hand, CUNY’s budget allocation from the state has improved under Governor Kathy Hochul as compared to her predecessor Andrew Cuomo. There is more money available now to pay for raises and new faculty and staff positions, but the State’s budget is not yet where it needs to be to fund the union’s vision for #APeoplesCUNY. City Hall, a major funder of community colleges, is seeking more cuts to education, and it recently reached a tentative contract deal with District Council 37 that includes four 3% annual raises and one 3.25% raise.
The University has threatened to cancel classes and even implemented a hiring freeze, all while “the bosses have given themselves obscene raises,” said Andrea Vásquez, the union’s first vice president.
At the rally, former PSC President Barbara Bowen, who led bargaining for the union for two decades, spoke optimistically about the union’s current contract goals and listed accomplishments achieved in the last few agreements that many once dismissed as too ambitious.
PSC President James Davis told the crowd that the union’s bargaining committee has a tough road of negotiations ahead, adding that a united membership gives the union the power it needs to prevail in bargaining.
“We need you by our side,” he said. “I mean that symbolically, and I mean that literally…. You are the union. We are the union.” Davis then repeated the chant of the morning: “When we fight, we win!”
Published: March 9, 2023