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Home » Issues » PSC Escalates to Save Lives, Save Jobs, Save CUNY:

PSC Escalates to Save Lives, Save Jobs, Save CUNY:

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Click here for the ten demands.
Click here to pledge to stand with fellow unionists on August 26.

Dear PSC Members,

I am proud to send the announcement below on behalf of the union’s Executive Council. 

The Executive Council voted unanimously to support the ten demands that follow and to put all options on the table for union action if our demands are not satisfactorily addressed by the start of the academic year.  Enough mismanagement and stonewalling by the CUNY administration!  Lives are at stake. 

Sign up here to pledge your support for THE UNION’S 24-HOUR ONLINE ACTION ON AUGUST 26 and for more militant action if it is needed.

Thank you.  I hope you and those you love are in good health.  Please call on the union if there is any way we can support you.

In unity,

Barbara Bowen

PSC Escalates to Save Lives, Save Jobs, Save CUNY:

In what is likely to be the greatest test the current CUNY administration will ever face, it has repeatedly failed—failed to keep all employees safe until forced to do so by the PSC, failed to comply with the New York State directive to engage with the PSC in developing a reopening plan, failed to adhere to its contract with the union, failed to act with urgency in bargaining with the union about the impact of the shift to remote work, failed to comply with the CARES Act requirement on continuity of employment, failed to include elected faculty governance and department chairs in decisions about instruction, and failed to articulate a vision for CUNY adequate to the current moment.  

Like all New Yorkers, PSC members have witnessed unbearable loss of life in our city.  We have seen violent inequities of race and class laid bare, and many of us have joined the movement to end them.  We have mourned the loss of friends, students and colleagues, as CUNY has endured more deaths from coronavirus than any other university in the country.

PSC members recognize that many of the political forces impinging on CUNY are not within the University’s control.  But how CUNY responds to those forces is within its control.  Instead of taking a stand for the increased investment CUNY urgently needs to serve New Yorkers in this crisis, the chancellor has announced that CUNY will “hold off” on spending much of the federal stimulus money that has already been allocated to CUNY colleges.  Meanwhile many CUNY worksites remain unsafe for reopening, thousands of faculty and staff have been laid off, and hundreds will lose eligibility for health insurance this fall.  CUNY management’s rush to accept increased austerity represents a staggering failure of both policy and imagination.

During other economic crises, universities have recognized that investment in higher education is essential to broad and deep recovery. In the Great Depression in the 1930s, CUNY built three new colleges: Brooklyn, Lehman and Queens. Such vision is sorely lacking now.

The PSC has repeatedly sought to work with CUNY management to find solutions to the issues the University faces and enable the faculty and staff to continue to do the work we love.  The union remains committed to negotiating solutions and will continue to negotiate at every opportunity.  But while some progress has been made and agreements on certain issues have been reached, each step has required inordinate pressure, and the steps have been far too few.

After months of stonewalling and obfuscation by the CUNY administration, the PSC has no choice now but to take the actions necessary to protect our members, our students and our city.  The union membership has an alternative vision for CUNY, one that challenges the history of racist disinvestment in the University and asserts that increased investment in CUNY is both urgent and politically possible.  PSC members are determined that the current crisis not be used as an opportunity to degrade the University, overcrowd our classrooms, ignore shared governance, and impose ever-cheaper forms of labor and instruction.

Thousands of PSC members have taken action since March to demand that the University reject austerity, reverse layoffs and ensure that our workplaces are safe before it is reopened.  We have petitioned, testified, demonstrated, written letters, won support from legislators, published opinion pieces, marched with students, sent hundreds of cars and bicycles in caravans around the city.  Yet still CUNY drags its feet, refuses to comply with government directives on reopening, implements thousands of layoffs and strips vulnerable employees of health insurance.

To save lives, save jobs and save CUNY, the PSC puts forward the ten demands below.  We call on the University to meet the demands by August 26, the first day of the academic year on most CUNY campuses.  

·       Between now and August 26, the union will continue our one-on-one conversations with members and will call on chapter chairs to initiate systematic conversations on their campus about building for more militant action.

·       On August 26, the PSC will conduct a 24-hour online action of resistance.  Sign up here to join and pledge your support.

·       And on August 26, the PSC and the coalition of student, labor and community groups that constitute the CUNY Rising Alliance will launch a public campaign for major new legislation.  The legislation advances a visionary agenda for the University’s future and a transformative plan for funding: A New Deal for CUNY.  

Ten Demands

·       If the demands below are not satisfactorily addressed by August 26, all options will be on the table, including further legal and legislative action, votes of no confidence, and preparation for a strike.

Save Lives

  • CUNY must immediately comply with the New York State requirement that universities engage with the unions representing their employees in developing plans for reopening.
  • Before CUNY requires a single employee to return for on-site work, CUNY must publicly present a plan for full compliance at every open worksite with federal and New York State health and safety guidelines regarding COVID-19, with all relevant federal guidelines and with the parties’ collective bargaining agreement concerning workplace safety.
  • CUNY must agree that even after on-site work resumes, the University will provide accommodation, including permission to continue remote work, for employees at risk of serious illness or death as a result of contracting COVID-19.

Save Jobs

  • Adjunct faculty and staff, graduate employees, Continuing Education teachers and CLIP and CUNY Start instructors and any other PSC-represented employees laid off in 2020 for budgetary or programmatic reasons must be reinstated in their positions or in comparable positions, with no loss of accrued benefits.
  • All PSC-represented employees who have lost or will lose eligibility for health insurance because of budgetary or programmatic layoffs must be restored to eligibility with no loss of coverage.
  • CUNY management and CUNY Research Foundation management must stop stonewalling and engage with urgency in impact bargaining with the PSC, and must reach agreements on remaining demands by August 26.


  • CUNY must include faculty governance bodies, including department chairs, and, where appropriate, the PSC, as participants in decisions about curriculum and the modality of instruction, consistent with compliance with the health and safety requirements above.
  • CUNY must bargain with the PSC on class size.
  • CUNY must freeze tuition for the 2020-2021 academic year and eliminate the proposed the “wellness fee.”
  • CUNY must present a public plan for addressing the health emergency faced by its students, including a plan for increasing the number of full-time mental health counselors for students to meet nationally mandated staffing ratios.

The PSC Executive Council

July 25, 2020


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