September 28, 2018
Professors’ union march through Wall Street to demand funding for quality education, and raises for faculty and staff
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New York, NY — Nearly a year after the expiration of their union contract, hundreds of CUNY faculty and staff marched through the Financial District on September 27, 2018 to demand public investment in The City University of New York and raises for underpaid faculty and staff. Led by a brass band and carrying lighted signs, hundreds of union members picketed outside the NY Stock Exchange before chanting their way to the investment banking firm of William C. Thompson, chairperson of the CUNY Board of Trustees.
Full-time salaries at CUNY lag thousands of dollars behind those at comparable institutions such as Rutgers and University of Connecticut. Adjuncts who work at CUNY earn a near-poverty wage despite their PhDs or other advanced degrees. Nearly a year after the expiration of their last contract, CUNY faculty and staff are marching through the Financial District to protest the inequality that leaves CUNY starved of funding while Wall Street profits soar. They will end the march at the investment banking office of William C. Thompson, Jr. (the CUNY Board of Trustees Chair) to demand funding for a contract that offers competitive salaries and ensures academic quality
“CUNY needs investment and an administration willing to demand it. Wall Street is awash in profits, yet public institutions like CUNY are starved of funds. It’s time for Wall Street to pay its share and time for the CUNY trustees, led by Bill Thompson, to demand public funding for quality CUNY education and a fully funded contract for CUNY faculty and staff,” said Professor Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), the union of CUNY faculty and professional staff.
After years of declining per-student investment by New York State in the CUNY senior colleges, the faculty, student advisors and other professionals at CUNY are underpaid and expected to work in conditions that undermine student success. Much of CUNY’s infrastructure is crumbling. Full-time salaries at CUNY lag thousands of dollars behind those at comparable institutions such as Rutgers and University of Connecticut. The 12,000 adjunct faculty who work at CUNY now teach the majority of courses, but are paid a near-poverty wage despite having PhDs or other advanced degrees. The union has called for an increase in adjunct pay to $7,000 a course, to bring pay at CUNY in line with adjunct pay at Fordham, Penn State and Rutgers.
The professors also protested the inequality that leaves their public university starved of funds while Wall Street profits soar. Wall Street posted $25 billion in profits in 2017. Traders this year are earning record salaries. The industry is swollen with cash, thanks to federal tax cuts. Meanwhile, CUNY’s collective bargaining costs are not fully funded by New York State and CUNY colleges have been forced to cut their already reduced budgets for academic programs and student support.
Former NYC Comptroller Bill Thompson is a leading executive at the investment banking firm Siebert Cisneros Shank & Co., L.L.C. He was appointed by Governor Cuomo in 2016 to head the CUNY Board of Trustees, the body that approves both the University’s budget requests and its collective bargaining agreements.
The union is demanding State and City funding to back up the next union contract so that CUNY will not have to cannibalize academic programs or continue to raise tuition to find the necessary funds. The PSC’s 30,000 members are ready to fight for the raises and investment needed to ensure an intellectually rich college education for CUNY students.
“By failing to invest adequately in CUNY,” said Bowen, “New York is making a policy decision not to invest in the future of hundreds of thousands of working-class, poor and middle-class students. This rich city in this rich state must do better. CUNY needs competitive salaries that would allow the University to keep the talented, committed faculty and staff students need. And CUNY’s underpaid adjuncts need wage justice. The 30,000 members of the PSC are united in the demand for a fair and fully funded contract that enables us to serve the people of New York.”
Wall Street posted $25 billion in profits last year, while CUNY students got tuition hikes, underpaid professors and crumbling buildings. Hundreds of thousands of CUNY students depend on CUNY’s faculty and staff to provide the excellent education that allows CUNY to lead the nation in moving students out of poverty and into the middle class. But after years of declining per-student investment from the State, this work is underpaid and too often performed in conditions that undermine student success. Full-time salaries are uncompetitive. Twelve thousand faculty members are low-wage, part-time adjuncts. CUNY needs a raise—a raise that is funded with public dollars, not with tuition hikes and further cuts to academic programs.
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