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Home » Clarion » 2024 » March 2024 » Contract talks resume after hiatus

Contract talks resume after hiatus

Union presents new key demands to CUNYBy ARI PAUL

PSC Contract Negotiations

PSC President James Davis addresses members who are observing contract negotiations. Photo credit: Ari Paul

Collective bargaining with CUNY resumed in late January after management effectively put the brakes on contract bargaining with the PSC in the fall semester Administration representatives and the PSC bargaining team met for the 10th and 11th time since talks began last year.

“We have a lot still to go,” PSC President James Davis said to the more than 60 members gathered to observe the January bargaining session. He told the members that he hoped the resumption of contract talks would “regain the momentum” the union had in the fall.

NEW LEADERSHIP

Contract talks also entered a new phase, as the administration has introduced a new lead negotiator, Gary Dellaverson, who for years was the chief labor negotiator and an executive for the MTA. The union has brought on Debbie Bell, the former PSC executive director, as a negotiations consultant.

Having played a key role in bargaining several PSC-CUNY contracts and served as a negotiator for DC 37, Bell knows a thing or two about tough collective bargaining.

The union offered a series of new contract demands, including “kill fees” for instructors who have their classes cancelled before the beginning of the semester, a reduction in the time it takes for higher education officers to achieve job security (from eight years to five), exemption of sabbatical decisions from budgetary considerations, greater CLIP and CUNY Start job security and other advances for instructors in these programs, improvements to the CLT promotions process, professional advancement opportunities for lecturers, additional support for department chairs, and labor management committees for the parties to make progress regarding retirement issues and professional respect in the workplace, along with a proposed change to the non-discrimination provision in the contract.

Management proposed that contractual provisions that stipulate sufficient office space for faculty be struck, and that retirees no longer be allowed to have CUNY email addresses after one year.

For many PSC observers of the January session, management’s position appears hostile to the faculty and staff.

REACTIONS

Kevin Adams

Kevin Adams is one of many members observing bargaining sessions. Photo credit: Scott Heins

Alexandra Juhasz, a distinguished professor of film at Brooklyn College, hailed the union’s bargaining team and the principal officers’ bargaining strategy and ability to push back against management. “The nature of the interaction is more contentious and hostile than I could have imagined,” she said.

Boyda Johnstone, an associate professor of English, said that the PSC leadership forcefully made the case in contract talks that the next collective bargaining agreement must address inequities at the University. She noted that the union’s treasurer, Felicia Wharton,“revealed a disturbing imbalance in teaching and workload requirements for EOC (Educational Opportunity Center) lecturers, who teach 33 hours annually across vastly different subjects and age demographics.”

 

“[The principal officers] were all prepared, articulate, impassioned and strong. They were polite when necessary and pushed back when that seemed appropriate."

Alexandra Juhasz, Brooklyn College

At the January bargaining session, regarding the PSC’s demand “calling on CUNY to provide a salary advance to adjuncts who have not been paid for their work in a timely manner,” Peter Kolozi, PSC chapter chair at Bronx Community College, explained, “It’s a matter of basic fairness. A person should be paid in a timely manner for the work they do.”

The union is approaching the one-year anniversary of its last contract’s expiration on February 28, 2023. The PSC will be holding demonstrations and mounting a campaign to pressure CUNY into putting forward a viable economic offer and negotiating a strong contract as quickly as possible. In early February, members gathered at a CUNY Board of Trustees hearing at John Jay College to demand that management engage in serious bargaining with the PSC and reach an agreement soon.

The PSC is encouraging members to attend and observe bargaining sessions, especially on February 29, the one-year contract expiration anniversary. For one thing, management sees the union’s power with the members present. It is also an organizing opportunity for members. Juhasz described it as an educational and inspiring experience.

MEMBER OBSERVATIONS

“Observing this tense, often dramatic, very formal, and exceedingly combative – albeit mostly polite – interaction provides insight into how very hard it is for the union, and everyday workers, to achieve reasonable conditions from our bosses,” Juhasz said. “[The principal officers] were all prepared, articulate, impassioned and strong. They were polite when necessary and pushed back when that seemed appropriate. Watching the contentious back-and-forth, I have a better sense of why this takes so long, and I also feel confident that our team is qualified and doing all they can, given strong and equally prepared forces that are oppositional.”

Members like Deborah Gambs, an associate professor of sociology at Borough of Manhattan Community College, emerged from contract talks with energy for the campaign for a fair deal.

“My sense is that more than ever we need a strong unified presence of the entire membership to fight the manufactured austerity coming from CUNY and the city especially,” she said.


Published: February 27, 2024

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