Since the Supreme Court’s Janus decision, more than a thousand faculty and staff at CUNY have joined or reaffirmed their commitment to the union. PSC members are defying the right-wing attempt to crush the power of working people and our unions. The PSC is at its largest membership ever.
The union bargaining team brought that power to the bargaining table in two bargaining sessions in July. In this update we report on the first of those sessions; another update will follow shortly. What happens at the bargaining table is important, but the deciding factor is the power of our members standing together.
As a PSC member, you add to our power at the bargaining table. Thank you! Management counts union members when assessing the PSC’s capacity. This is the moment to affirm your commitment as a dues-paying member, if you haven’t already, by signing the new online membership card. Please sign today and empower the bargaining team to fight for all of us.
At previous bargaining sessions, PSC negotiators traced the erosion in CUNY salaries over time and the resulting lack of competitiveness of our current salaries. We also raised our critical demand to raise the adjunct minimum pay to $7,000 per course. The adjunct salary demand is not just about adjuncts; it is about whether CUNY management will continue to treat college teaching as low-wage work. No single change would be more transformative for all of us—full-time as well as part-time, staff as well as faculty—than ending poverty pay for adjuncts. All of our work is devalued and will remain underpaid when any of us can work for what amounts to $28,000 a year.
At the first July session, the union bargaining team completed our presentation on salaries and raised other economic demands. We called for additional salary increases for several of the lowest-paid full-time positions, especially Lecturers and College Laboratory Technicians. Over time, as percentage-based raises are applied, the gap between highest- and lowest-paid titles widens, and real inequities can arise. The PSC leadership has consistently sought to address these inequities, negotiating additional salary increments for these positions in past contracts and creating a salary differential for Assistants to HEO and CLTs who have earned advanced degrees in their fields.
On July 9, bargaining team members (including two Lecturers), assisted by rank-and-file CLTs, presented the evidence about how the demands on workers in these positions have increased dramatically and how their salaries have fallen behind. We stated our strong position that CUNY management should fund targeted salary increases for these job titles to address the growing demands of their work and the inadequacy of their pay. Salaries for these positions lag behind those for comparable positions in high schools in New York State.
Management responded that any targeted increases for CLTs and Lecturers (including Doctoral Lecturers) would have to be discussed as part of an overall economic package. They stressed that the “collective bargaining pattern” for public-sector workers in New York City and State in this round of bargaining includes limited raises of just 2% per year.
CUNY—and PSC members—have needs that exceed this austerity approach. While the bargaining team is fully versed on the current limited economic “pattern,” we will continue to demand a contract with both economic and non-economic gains that meet our members’ needs.
The union also presented other economic issues, such as the need to increase funding for PSC-CUNY research awards and the professional development grants for professional staff and adjuncts. We also pushed hard for a demand that we maintain should be granted without assessing a cost: tuition waivers for the children and step-children of full-time faculty and staff, tuition waivers for non-teaching adjuncts (a growing category of CUNY employees), and more reasonable tuition waivers for teaching adjuncts.
PSC members consistently cite the lack of tuition waivers for employees’ children as one of their greatest disappointments about working conditions at CUNY. When universities with tuition five or six times higher than CUNY’s can offer this benefit, CUNY should be able to do at least as much. Bargaining team members spoke passionately about what it would mean to faculty and staff—and to the University—if our children were offered free tuition at CUNY.
The two sides met again on July 26. We’ll report on that session in the next Bargaining Update. Meanwhile, the bargaining team is preparing for additional sessions in August and a mass demonstration about our contract on September 27.
How can you show your support? Above all, remain an active, engaged member of the union on your campus or at your workplace. Both New York State and New York City governments, as well as the CUNY Board of Trustees, are watching to see how strong our union remains when they gauge how much power we have to fight for a good contract.
Be counted! Reaffirm your commitment as a dues-paying member IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY, and add to the union’s bargaining power. And if you have not yet sent your message to the CUNY Board demanding speedy action on a good contract, please click here to send it today.
Watch for future updates, and remember to mark your calendar for Thursday, September 27, when we will take a stand together for a contract worthy of our work.