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Safety strike authorization vote for Hunter College Campus Schools

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Hunter College Campus Schools Safe Return Campaign Page

Dear Colleagues,

This is a tense weekend for the 130 PSC members who work at the Hunter College Campus Schools. The HCCS teachers need our support. They have been forced into considering a safety strike when in-person classes resume next week at the HCCS.

All summer, the HCCS chapter of the PSC tried everything to get their administration to ensure the safety of their building. But after rallies and press conferences and petitions and a no confidence vote-and even winning a Temporary Restraining Order against CUNY in court-CUNY has still not agreed to the teachers’ key demand: full access for an independent safety inspection and no in-person classes until an inspection shows that the buildings are safe.

As a last resort, with in-person classes scheduled to begin on Tuesday, the PSC Executive Council took the rare step of approving a strike authorization vote for PSC-represented members at the HCCS. The secret-ballot vote is being conducted this weekend.

The teachers don’t want to strike, and they have done everything they can to reach a solution without having to engage in a safety strike. But lives are at stake. Teachers’ lives-and students’ lives. When we fight for safety, we fight for students.

The HCCS building was designed to resemble an armory, believe it or not. It had severe ventilation problems even before the COVID pandemic. Hunter College claims that everything in the building has been fixed, but they haven’t allowed an independent inspection. Every other public school building in NYC has allowed a safety inspection.

Then, two weeks ago, the Hunter College president lied about one of the most critical safety protections. President Raab asserted that Hunter had purchased and installed “HEPA-equivalent” filters for every classroom that relied on recirculated air, when in fact Hunter had installed devices that do not filter air, are not HEPA-equivalent, and have no record of effectiveness against COVID-19. The PSC took CUNY to court and won.

The HCCS teachers love teaching their students. They want nothing more than to be in the classroom. I saw for myself how exhilarated they were after seeing their students on Zoom for the first time after the summer recess. Many are parents of young children themselves, and they understand how disruptive changes in school reopening can be. But the Hunter administration could have solved this problem a month ago if they had adhered to safety standards and allowed an independent inspection.

It’s not too late to arrange for an independent inspection now. That’s exactly what the PSC leadership is trying to achieve this weekend. We are doing our utmost to reach a resolution without having to go to a strike. I am in talks today with CUNY management, with the support of our statewide and national affiliates. Union pressure is beginning to work, and I have some hope that we will be successful. Please add to our power by sending this letter to the Hunter College Campus Schools’ top administrators. It is copied to Chancellor Matos Rodríguez and elected officials. Safety is everyone’s issue.

The union’s Executive Council set a very high bar for approving a vote to authorize a safety strike at the Hunter Campus Schools. We made sure that every other possible remedy was tried first and that HCCS chapter members had held individual conversations with every member they could reach. We made sure that members had full information about both the risks and the potential gains of holding a safety strike.

If the HCCS members vote to authorize a safety strike and the PSC is forced to hold a strike at HCCS, only the 130 HCCS teachers and staff would be authorized to participate in the strike. Other PSC members would be expected to continue our work uninterrupted. Other members’ role would be to support the HCCS teachers with our presence on a socially distanced picket line during hours when we are not required to be at work and to offer other support.

But our hope is to reach a resolution that protects members’ safety without needing to strike. You can help us to get there by sending your letter.

Thank you for your support. Watch for updates later this weekend or Monday. When we fight for safety, we fight for all of us.

In unity,
Barbara Bowen
President, PSC/CUNY

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