New York, NY – With their union contract set to expire, hundreds of CUNY faculty and staff rallied outside CUNY’s Midtown headquarters on February 27, 2023 to take their demands for a new contract straight to management’s front door. The Professional Staff Congress (PSC) – the union representing 30,000 faculty and staff at CUNY – was joined by students and advocates in calling for a new agreement that includes inflation-beating raises and other advances that help to protect the quality of a CUNY education.
Following decades of public disinvestment and three pandemic years, CUNY colleges are facing staff shortages, noncompetitive salaries, and inadequate working conditions. Just this month, CUNY management ordered a hiring freeze and college “savings targets” that will mean cuts to academics and student services. Students and advocates joined the rally because a fair contract for PSC members will ensure that CUNY remains New York City’s greatest engine for economic mobility among low-income students and students of color.
“We are fighting for a ‘Contract for A People’s CUNY’ because a fair contract that supports our faculty and professional staff at CUNY not only benefits our members, but also improves the lives of the students and the communities that we serve,” said James Davis, President of the Professional Staff Congress. “The hundreds of faculty, staff, students and advocates who joined in solidarity at today’s rally sent a clear signal to CUNY management that our whole community stands beside us in demanding a fair contract. We can and will ensure that CUNY provides a high quality education and remains a powerful force for change in New York.”
PSC’s contract fight begins as labor organizing has intensified across New York City. And around the country, higher education unions are asserting themselves at the forefront of labor victories in contract struggles. At the end of last year, 48,000 academic workers across the University of California system went on strike for six weeks and won raises, childcare and more. And in NYC, adjunct faculty at The New School and Fordham University recently won impressive contracts.
In their last contract, the PSC won unit-wide raises of more than 10% over five years and a 71% increase in the minimum pay adjuncts receive to teach a 3-credit course.
“New York City’s working families deserve a world-class public university system, but CUNY’s dedicated faculty, adjuncts and professional staff can’t effectively serve our city’s students and communities without better working, teaching, and learning conditions. After years of underinvestment, it’s long past time for these workers to finally achieve meaningful and equitable salary increases, improvements in health and safety protections, increased job security, and all of the other resources needed to carry out their critical mission of providing high quality public education for all. The entire New York City Labor Movement stands with PSC/CUNY’s dedicated faculty, adjuncts, and professional staff in the fight for a fair contract for A People’s CUNY,” said Vincent Alvarez, president of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO.
However, salaries at CUNY lag behind those at many peer institutions. The union is demanding across-the-board raises that exceed inflation for all members, plus additional “equity increases” to lift the salaries of faculty and staff in lower paid titles. The demands also call for pay parity with full-time faculty–equal pay for equal work—for adjunct faculty, who teach the majority of CUNY courses.
Beyond salaries, the union’s bargaining agenda includes demands:
- That support work-life balance and professional respect, including provisions for remote work, anti-bullying measures, and, for adjunct faculty, compensation for canceled courses and late paychecks;
- For better benefits, including tuition waivers for the children of faculty and staff, and expanded eligibility for health insurance for adjuncts;
- That advance racial justice and support for the common good, including improving racial diversity in recruiting and retaining faculty, and reducing class size;
- For the protection of academic quality and integrity in online education;
- For stronger health and safety provisions;
- To enhance job security for adjunct faculty and improve their access to full-time appointments; and more.
CUNY graduates contribute $4.2 billion annually to the state economy and make up about half of all new nurses and one third of all new teachers each year in New York City.
CUNY is funded by both the State and New York City. While the State has begun to reverse its record of underfunding CUNY, Governor Hochul has called for tuition hikes, and her Executive Budget falls short of CUNY’s needs. Mayor Adams has demanded disruptive cuts to CUNY funding as part of his plan to cut most city agencies. And federal stimulus money that helped offset tuition losses due to pandemic enrollment declines will end this spring.
PSC/CUNY members, CUNY students, community groups and labor allies are also mobilizing to ensure CUNY gets the public funding it needs from Albany and City Hall. They’re working to pass better state and city budgets and to enact the New Deal for CUNY, state legislation that would improve faculty-to-student ratios, professionalize adjunct pay, enhance access to academic advisors and mental health counselors, fix CUNY’s crumbling facilities and eliminate undergraduate tuition.
The same broad and growing coalition is behind the union in its efforts toward a fair contract. These two watershed fights will be instrumental in reshaping the future of CUNY.
© Erik McGregor – firstname.lastname@example.org – 917-225-8963