You were magnificent in response to our call for the demonstration on September 29. Thank you! Hundreds more people than expected showed up, and together we interrupted the CUNY Board meeting with our demands and filled the streets around Baruch with our chants.
The photos on this page and others tell the story, as does the video on the union website: the demonstration was a crowded, lively, joyful, serious, angry, effective event. We spoke with a single voice: CUNY needs a raise, we need a raise, and we need it now. A good contract is good for everyone: students, faculty, staff, the University and New York.
Our message was heard. The union leadership met with the CUNY administration days after the September 29 protest, and it was clear that the sheer size of the event had created greater urgency to resolve the contract. Serious efforts are now under way with both State and City governments to reach agreement on an economic framework. The PSC is also working directly with public officials to achieve a resolution.
But pressure, pressure, pressure is the key. When this issue of Clarion reaches you, the union will be in the midst of Press the Presidents Week and preparing hard for the mass rally and march on Tuesday, October 21. The PSC is 25,000 strong, and we have to make that strength visible to those in power. That means making October 21 a priority, just as nearly a thousand of you made it a priority to be at the demonstration last month. I know how overscheduled most of our lives are, but if a new contract is a priority for you, joining the PSC on the evening of October 21 must be a priority too. It’s simple: we are stronger together, and we need you.
We will gather at 5:30 on Tuesday, October 21, in the Community Church of New York (40 East 35th Street, near Park Avenue South) for a report on the latest developments in contract negotiations; then we will take our message to those in power with demand for action. The union is prepared to intensify the pressure and broaden our reach. One thing is certain: our success depends on the number of people who make a commitment to come. The union bargaining team and leaders are engaged in intense negotiations and political meetings, but contracts are won on the ground. The number of members participating matters.
Members keep asking me, understandably, Why is the PSC still fighting when other contracts in the city have already been settled? For two reasons. First: our contract is more complicated politically than almost any other public-sector contract in New York. Second: we refuse to settle for a contract that undermines us economically and professionally.
The PSC contract is uniquely complicated because CUNY’s public funding comes largely from the State but also includes resources from the City. Our contract must reflect agreement between State and City governments as well as between the PSC and CUNY. All of the other public-sector contracts that have been settled this year, such as the United Federation of Teachers contract, require approval by only one government
No Austerity Contract
An inadequate contract would have been easy to achieve. But if we want anything other than a below-inflation, concessionary settlement, we will have to expose the damage done to CUNY by years of austerity funding and demand a contract that supports our work. Doing so is not easy when contracts both nationally and locally continue to reflect austerity politics. But New York’s economy is rebounding and Wall Street is seeing record profits; there is no justification for a contract that imposes further austerity conditions on CUNY and on us. CUNY is one of the great, saving institutions in this still-unequal, still-segregated city; it should be supported by a contract that allows the faculty and staff to do our work and live our lives.
In a just world we would not have to fight for resources simply to maintain a modest level of income and dedicate our lives to public service. In a just world we would be supported for making the sacrifices we do to work at a public university. But this is not a just world. In this world it takes a serious fight to achieve a just contract at CUNY, a university that has been systematically underfunded because it serves primarily the working class and people of color. I think a just contract at CUNY is cause worth fighting for – for many reasons – and I suspect that you do too. The fight is about our lives, our families, our economic stability and about the belief that the powers and pleasures of higher education should be open to all.
If this fight matters to you – if a new contract matters to you – we need you at the mass action on Tuesday, October 21. We are stronger together; the whole history of fights for justice tells us that.
I look forward to seeing you on the 21st.