CUNY Delays Our Raises

Updated: November 20, 2020
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Dear Colleagues:

What a week! Congratulations to the hundreds of PSC members who joined the union’s efforts and the efforts of many other groups to defeat President Trump and his destructive politics. All members are welcome to join the union’s online election debriefing tomorrow night; click here to sign up and learn more.

The PSC leadership has learned from Chancellor Matos Rodríguez that CUNY management plans to violate its contractual and legal obligation to implement the 2% salary increase due on November 15. The increase is part of the collective bargaining agreement signed by Chancellor Matos Rodríguez last year.

State and City governments in New York have delayed salary increases for many other public-sector workers since the pandemic began, including for our SUNY colleagues in UUP. But that doesn’t make it right. Attempting to balance the budget on the backs of modestly paid public employees is a losing fiscal strategy, and a cruel one. New York State has yet to agree to a single dollar in tax increases on the ultra-rich in this pandemic, preferring instead to shift costs to workers.

Let the CUNY administration know that you do not accept a “new normal” of delayed raises; send this letter to the chancellor today to demand that he rethink his administration’s plan.

During the past eight months, CUNY faculty and staff have worked harder, and under greater pressure, than ever before. CUNY management has yet to compensate us for our countless hours of extra work or reimburse us for equipment, supplies and added bandwidth we have had to buy in order to work from home. No one denies that CUNY faces a severe budget shortfall, but management’s decision to respond by delaying our raises is shortsighted and insulting.

The chancellor’s announcement of a five-day unpaid furlough for managers on the executive compensation plan is not a budget strategy; it is theater. It will yield a one-time amount that will do little to change the budget picture. There are PSC members who have been counting on the 2% raise to cover rent increases or additional childcare costs. Others need the added income to help family members who have lost their jobs during the pandemic. And reducing high-paid managers’ income by five days when laid-off adjuncts lost 100% of their pay is not “shared sacrifice.”

What we know so far

The PSC has received nothing in writing on the plan to delay our raises, and management has so far failed to notify employees. Even though it is management’s responsibility to inform employees of a management decision, I will share what we know. More important, I will share what the PSC plans to do to defend our contract and our salaries. Here’s a link to the letter you can send right now.

  • CUNY management plans to “delay implementation” of the 2% across-the-board salary increase due on November 15. Assuming management goes ahead with this plan, our next paychecks will not reflect the 2% increase that was agreed to in the contract.
  • The action is being described as a delay, not a cancellation, of our raises. Other public employees in NY State have been informed that the earliest their raises will be implemented is January 1, 2021.
  • The delay will apply to both senior and community colleges, according to the chancellor’s office.
  • The chancellor claimed that CUNY does not know how long the implementation of the raises will be delayed—nor how much CUNY aims to “save” by not paying us our 2% raise when it is due. Without a savings target, there is no credible budgetary justification for the delay.
  • The union’s calculation is that PSC members collectively will lose more than $800,000 a week, or more than $3 million a month, because of the delay.
  • The chancellor made no commitment about when or whether the money owed to each of us would be repaid and indicated no plan to include interest on any back-pay.
  • The chancellor admitted that the decision to delay paying the raises was CUNY’s own decision, not the result of a directive from the governor. CUNY management described the decision to delay as “consistent with what the State is doing.”

What the union plans in response

We have worked hard for our raise, and it is part of a legal agreement. Delaying payment is unjust and one more way of disinvesting in CUNY.

The PSC leadership and staff have begun preparation to file a class-action grievance and are exploring legal action to defend our contract and our raises. We will use every legal and contractual remedy available to push CUNY management to pay the full value of our raises and to take a public stand against underfunding. The strongest pressure, always, is our collective action. Start by sending this letter to the chancellor, then sign up to join the union’s effort to prepare for union-wide action to demand real solutions to CUNY’s funding crisis. Reversing management’s position of shifting costs onto workers and students during this crisis may require disruptive union-wide action. PSC members are preparing now.

There are other ways to balance the CUNY budget, starting with demanding that Governor Cuomo agree to the revenue proposals currently before state lawmakers that would close New York’s budget deficit. When the chancellor imposes a delay in our raise rather than taking a public stand for new State revenue, his administration is complicit in the position that shifting costs to workers is the only way to balance a budget. Send your letter today urging him to take a stand for CUNY faculty, staff and students—not to be silent when the State refuses to tax the rich.

Counting on a stimulus from Washington now that Joe Biden has been elected is also not an adequate strategy. We cannot be certain that a stimulus bill will be passed or that it will contain enough money to cover the whole deficit for New York State and City. Even if an economic stimulus arrives early next year, it would be a one-time infusion of money. Only changing the tax system so that the rich pay their fair share will produce lasting budgetary change.

The PSC will fight for the raises we have earned. Send your letter to Chancellor Matos Rodríguez today, and watch for updates as the fight continues.

In solidarity,
Barbara Bowen
President, PSC/CUNY