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CUNY's unacceptable offer

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Dear PSC Members:

It took five years, multiple protests, the announcement of a strike authorization vote, and a sit-in to get the CUNY Administration to move, but they finally put an offer on the table at Wednesday’s bargaining session-as PSC members assembled for a demonstration on the street below and prepared to risk arrest. Collective action works.

But we must keep the pressure on. The proposal CUNY management made on Wednesday falls far short of what is needed to pay us decently for the important work we do. It also fails to provide the investment needed to protect high-quality education at CUNY. Our last raise was in October 2009, and our contract expired in 2010. Here is Chancellor Milliken’s economic proposal:

2010: 0%

2011: 0%

2012: 0%

2013: 0%

2014: 1% (on April 20)

2015: 1% (on April 20)

2016: 3% (on April 20)

1% (on October 19)

The total, before compounding, is 6% over 6 years. That means a salary “increase” below the level of inflation-in other words, a salary cut. We cannot afford a cut in the real-dollar value of our salaries when we work in one of the most expensive cities in the country. A failure even to keep up with inflation-in the absence of other major improvements-will make CUNY increasingly non-competitive in attracting and keeping the faculty and staff the University needs.

If the union were to accept Chancellor Milliken’s offer, CUNY faculty and staff would almost certainly have the lowest salary increases over this period of any public employees in the city or state. We would also receive minimal retroactive pay because the salary increases in management’s proposal date back only to 2014. Without an increase of any kind for the period between October 2009 and April 2014, our salaries could fall permanently behind those of others around the state and in higher education.

Milliken’s offer represents a failure on CUNY management’s part to secure sufficient investment by New York State in the people who make college education possible for half a million working New Yorkers, for the immigrants and people of color of this city.

Where do we go from here? The union bargaining team expressed severe disappointment with CUNY management’s offer, but we acknowledged that some progress had been made. We plan to make a formal response and to keep negotiating. Management indicated a willingness to move on some of your priorities, especially non-economic improvements for HEOs and long-serving adjuncts. CUNY’s economic proposal also includes an increase totaling 4% in 2016, which would be significant. But many of your most urgent demands-such as addressing the full-time faculty teaching load or providing more generous tuition waivers-have not been met.

The biggest issue, however, is salary. The union’s escalating campaign has shown that we can force CUNY to move on economics. We must keep the pressure on Chancellor Milliken and take our demand to Governor Cuomo. The union bargaining team has two more negotiating sessions with CUNY before the PSC Mass Meeting on November 19. We plan to keep working at the bargaining table to gain an acceptable offer, and we will report to you on our progress on November 19 at Cooper Union’s Great Hall.

I want to thank the hundreds of faculty and staff who came out to the protest in support of the PSC bargaining team and the 54 members who engaged in civil disobedience. You created a powerful event. “Finally somebody is doing something!” said one observer. The extensive media coverage included an article in The New York Times and several television and radio reports.

The union leadership will provide further analysis of management’s proposal as the bargaining continues, but it is important for members to know from the outset just what the terms of CUNY’s offer are. And in less than two weeks, on Thursday, November 19, we will come together to take the next steps in the escalating fight for a contract worthy of our work.

In solidarity,
Barbara Bowen
President, PSC/CUNY

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