Lehman, Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center have essentially closed operations on site in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, in some cases maintaining only a food pantry. Every CUNY college must now do the same. If the college where you work is still refusing to protect its employees, please send a message to the college president right now. Email them and tweet at them.
News & Events
In recent years CUNY has repeatedly been faced with mass emergencies that have required contingency plans, from a terrorist attack to H1N1 flu to a hurricane. Yet CUNY management has developed no contingency plan for a pandemic. CUNY management also declined the PSC’s request to be a partner in developing a plan for the current emergency. The result has been policies in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic that are contradictory and fail to protect CUNY students, staff, and the public at large.
Although the failure to develop adequate contingency plans stretches back many years and is compounded by systematic underfunding of the University, Chancellor Matos Rodríguez’s message sent at 6:55 p.m. today, March 16, continues the pattern.
I am writing to clarify the PSC’s position on whether PSC-represented employees should report to work today. The union’s position, consistent with the directive by the governor and with CUNY’s announcement at 7:06 last night, is that no one except previously designated “essential personnel” should work on campus or at other CUNY workplaces today.
The PSC has demanded that CUNY clarify the announcement that colleges may designate any CUNY facility they wish as “essential” and the implication that employees other than those officially named “essential personnel” are required to work on site today. We further demand that CUNY Central issue all future announcements that may need to be made during this emergency and that such announcements be comprehensive and unequivocal.
Dear PSC Members and Colleagues:
4,240 letters were sent this afternoon to Chancellor Matos Rodríguez and Chairperson Thompson calling on them to allow all PSC-represented employees to work remotely, starting tomorrow. The chancellor just made this announcement:
“Only CUNY essential personnel should report to work tomorrow, Monday, March 16, to their campuses and CUNY Central. Essential staff have already been designated, however, if you have any questions, please contact your supervisor.”
The announcement is a victory for everyone who lives or works in this city. CUNY management heard our message and put public health first. Now professional staff as well as all faculty will be able to protect their own health and the health of the community by staying home tomorrow. Everyone should continue to be paid as normal.
Dear Members and Colleagues:
As of this morning, the union leadership is in discussion with the CUNY Chancellor in response to our demand that all work by PSC-represented employees be conducted remotely, starting tomorrow. The discussion has been productive so far, but we do not have resolution yet.
So we need to let Chancellor Matos Rodríguez and Chair of the Board William Thompson know how urgent it is that CUNY do the right thing immediately: allow us to work from home. Send the message before 6:00 today.
The letter below was sent on March 14, 2020 to Chancellor Matos Rodríguez.
Dear Chancellor Matos Rodríguez:
The time has come for all work performed at CUNY to be performed remotely. Public health recommendations have changed even in the last few days, and it has now become clear that avoiding all unnecessary social contact is essential to slowing the spread of COVID-19. Avoiding social contact is impossible while traveling to work in a crowded city like New York and continuing to work in close proximity to others. Protective measures that may have seemed adequate earlier in the week are not adequate now.
The March 13 screening of His Girl Friday by the Labor Goes to the Movies Committee has been cancelled. Please check the website next month for an update on the April screening and discussion.
Message from President Bowen
March 12, 2020
I am writing to update you on what the union knows so far about the impact of CUNY’s plan in response to the coronavirus pandemic and the actions the PSC is taking in response. More messages will follow as we learn more.
First, a reminder: today is the union’s long-planned budget emergency action day. The pandemic has newly revealed the danger of relentlessly underfunding public institutions, including CUNY. There is no better moment to send this letter to Albany demanding an end to the fiscal starvation of CUNY.
Thank you for your support during the past few days. The union’s steady and public pressure on CUNY management to protect the safety of its employees, together with the sharp intervention by the student government and hundreds of social media messages, clearly influenced the administration’s decision to begin to act. CUNY management agreed yesterday to negotiate with the PSC, as required under the law, about the effects of their plan. The union has notified CUNY that bargaining must begin immediately. The PSC will advance the demands we published earlier this week as well as many new issues arising from the transition to distance learning for all classes.
The most obvious issue is that CUNY’s plan, announced yesterday, creates very different conditions and levels of isolation for teaching faculty than for non-classroom faculty and professional staff. We are one union, and the PSC will continue to fight to keep every one of our members safe, whether you are full-time or part-time, staff or faculty.
Chancellor Matos-Rodríguez’s reply to my letter demanding negotiations on the impact of the coronavirus epidemic on our terms and conditions of employment indicates that the University is not willing to negotiate with the union at this time on procedures relative to the COVID-19 epidemic. The PSC believes his position is a mistake, an insult to the 30,000 people the PSC represents, and a failure to meet a legal obligation.
But the union’s immediate focus remains on the health and wellbeing of the faculty and staff we represent, especially those whose health may be at serious risk. Therefore we are providing the guidance below for faculty and professional staff who are at serious health risk if they continue to work on campus.
We are aware of the calls from the University Student Senate and from many faculty and staff to close the University, and we will have a further update later today. But the PSC leadership believes it is essential to provide guidance for our members that can be acted upon immediately.
Late this afternoon (Monday, March 9) the PSC sent Chancellor Matos-Rodríguez a preliminary list of demands on coronavirus issues that must be resolved immediately. PSC members cannot wait for answers to our urgent needs.
Many, many members wrote in response to my letter on COVID-19; thank you. Your thoughtful comments helped to shape this first round of demands on the issue. The union may propose additional demands as conditions change and may need to take other action.
PSC officers and staff will continue to fight to ensure that your health and your rights are protected. We are actively monitoring other school and college closings.
Again, thank you for your generous responses to my last message, many of which expressed concern for the specific needs of the CUNY student population. Keep washing those hands and take care of yourselves, and each other.
Barbara Bowen, President, PSC