PSC Sues CUNY/ Fights Layoffs

Updated: August 25, 2020
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Dear PSC Members,

The PSC filed a major lawsuit against CUNY seeking an injunction against the layoffs.

Before saying more about the legal action and the union’s collective protest actions ahead, I want to extend deep solidarity to anyone reading this message who has received a notice of non-reappointment. 4,000 of your colleagues in the full-time and part-time staff and faculty immediately signed a petition supporting you, and your union will continue to fight. If you have received a notice of non-reappointment, please let us know right away so PSC staff can be in touch with you. And I urge you to apply immediately for Unemployment Insurance. I also send support to the department chairs who did everything they could to support the adjuncts in their department but were thwarted by central directives.

The union fought hard to prevent the layoffs in advance, and we are continuing to fight now to have them reversed. On several campuses, intense campaigns to reduce the announced cuts clearly made a difference. At others, activists are ramping up their fight this week. There was a PSC protest action at Brooklyn College today.

As a result of intense pressure by the PSC and other advocates, the City budget passed on Tuesday includes significant restorations to CUNY. Funds for ASAP and the Summer Youth Employment Program, which is partially housed at CUNY, were restored and represent victories that will support students and will likely save jobs.

Yet CUNY management went ahead with thousands of layoffs. The PSC cannot allow CUNY’s preemptive cuts to go unchallenged. We have already begun to escalate.

The PSC is fighting back.

  • The PSC filed a federal lawsuit last night in the Southern District of New York charging that CUNY has violated its obligations under the CARES Act by its layoff of thousands of part-time employees. The CARES Act requires that a university that is allocated funds under the act must keep employees on payroll to the greatest extent practicable. CUNY has been allocated CARES Act money but has not kept people employed to the greatest extent practicable. The PSC’s lawsuit seeks a federal court injunction requiring CUNY to rehire the employees it has terminated and stop further layoffs. The lawsuit also asks the court to award back-pay and benefits to any employee who has been financially harmed by CUNY's improper layoffs.
  • Today the union delivered to CUNY Chancellor Matos Rodríguez a petition that generated close to 4,000 signatures in 72 hours, demanding that layoffs cease. The petition amplifies the letter signed by 70 New York legislators and the letter from Representative Ocasio-Cortez, calling on CUNY to stop the layoffs and use CARES Act funding to keep employees on payroll.
  • Later this week the PSC will deliver to the Board of Trustees the testimony delivered by PSC members at the People’s Board of Trustees Hearing we held last Friday, in response to the Board’s failure to hold a public hearing this month.
  • On Thursday, July 9, PSC’s “Fight-back Thursdays” will continue, with a collective phone-bank on Zoom from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. This summer, PSC activists and staff plan to speak to every union member. Join us to make calls and enjoy entertaining, interactive breaks with union colleagues. Each action we take must be larger than the last so that our capacity to take militant union action grows.
  • On Saturday, July 18, four car caravans will make their way through the boroughs where most of our students live—Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens and Staten Island, blaring the message: Save Lives, Save Jobs, Save CUNY. To join the caravan or participate online, sign up here.
  • And this week, the union’s Executive Council decided that the PSC leadership and membership must also begin an assessment and systematic conversations with our members about escalating actions. It’s time to talk seriously about whether the union needs to consider disruptive job action during the fall semester in order to save lives, save jobs and save CUNY. There will be extensive conversation with members about the risks and potential power of such action before any plans are made, but faced with a central administration that has failed to comply with state and federal safety requirements during the pandemic, that has dragged its feet in responding to the union’s demands for contractual adjustments during the emergency, that has laid off close to 3,000 adjunct faculty and staff, and that has repeatedly failed to stand up for CUNY at a moment of unprecedented crisis, we decided that further escalation may be needed.

CUNY faculty and staff knew going into this summer that it would be a fight unlike any the PSC has seen since the 1975 fiscal crisis, a crisis that provided an excuse to begin the dismantling of CUNY. I believe we are united in the fight to prevent CUNY from being dismantled again. All of us are recovering from a traumatic spring and trying to respond to this moment of national grief, uprising and transformation. And 3,000 of us are absorbing the news of being laid off, sometimes after decades of service.

The PSC’s campaign will be only as strong as we make it together. Thank you to the thousands of members who have already participated, and welcome to those who are joining the campaign now.

In solidarity,
Barbara Bowen
President, PSC/CUNY

Case Update: Read the August 12, 2020 opinion of District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff, where he denies the union's motion for a preliminary injunction to reverse the layoffs.