January 7, 2008
PSC and management negotiators met on December 21, just before the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. There were several productive exchanges at the session, on both union and management demands, but further progress was difficult without a financial offer. PSC representatives acknowledged the complexity of CUNY’s bargaining position—both the City and the State must approve our contract—but also voiced members’ anger at not having received a financial offer, especially as the State has now reached a tentative contract settlement with UUP, the faculty and staff union at SUNY. The PSC cautioned that raises around the 3% range are not likely even to reach the level of inflation—let alone address the erosion of CUNY salaries over the past 30 years. Union representatives reminded management that faculty and staff will see CUNY’s offer as a sign of whether CUNY is serious about “studying with the best” and is willing to invest in the competitive salaries needed to attract and retain them.
One important feature of the session was the presence of a substantial number of PSC members as observers, many free to attend because classes had ended. It makes a difference to both union and management to have faculty and staff in attendance. As soon as bargaining dates for this term are established, the union will invite members to attend.
Classes may be on hiatus (on most campuses), but the contract campaign is not. There are many ways you can participate in the union’s contract campaign, and your participation is essential if we are to win a good contract; see the negotiations section of the website for details. If you are on campus in this inter-session period, wear a blue union button to highlight one of the issues at stake in the negotiations. The buttons say “CUNY needs a raise,” “CUNY is contingent on us,” “Hands off salary steps,” “Hands off HEOs” and “Hands off Department Chairs.” Get yours today by talking to your chapter chair or contacting Nick Cruz at the union office. Get one for yourself, and take a few extras to give to colleagues. Our visibility matters.
Higher Ed Commission Report out, PSC Response
The much anticipated preliminary report from the New York State Commission on Higher Education was released the week before Christmas. In the weeks leading up to the report, dozens of PSC members testified at two hearings about the urgent need for increased state support for CUNY. The preliminary report cogently presents the problems facing CUNY, especially chronic underfunding. Its recommendations, however, fall short of what is needed to address the structural problems it identifies. You can read the PSC’s statement on the report, released the same day, on the website; you will also find a link to the report itself there. The Commission’s final report is due in June 2008, and in the intervening months we will continue to work with the commission to advocate for the inclusion of crucial principles and positions in that report—starting with the need for the level of investment that will allow CUNY to live up to the aspiration for New York’s public universities cited by the governor in his call for a commission.
Budget Season is Upon Us!
One place that the Commission on Higher Education’s preliminary report will be immediately relevant is in the upcoming legislative deliberations for the 2008-2009 state budget. Governor Eliot Spitzer will deliver his state of the state speech this Wednesday, and press reports indicate that higher education will be a major theme (see, for instance, today’s New York Times article). At the end of the month, the governor will release the proposed executive budget. PSC members will travel to Albany several times this winter to lobby State Assembly and Senate Members in the weeks that follow as legislators discuss and decide the final budget for the coming year. Our lobbying dates are already set: February 25-26 are NYSUT’s higher education lobby days, and the NYSUT Committee of 100 will lobby March 17-18 and May 12-13. You can sign up to join these effort to advocate for increased funding for CUNY by contacting Britt Minott at the union office. Direct, one-on-one engagement with our state legislators is one of the most effective ways we can communicate CUNY’s needs.
A note about this week’s “Labor Goes to the Movies”
“Labor Goes to the Movies” will be on a Saturday this month: this Saturday, January 12, at 12pm, in the union hall at the PSC office (61 Broadway, 16th floor). We will be showing a double feature, a 2000 Israeli film about the 1973 Yom Kippur War and a 2005 Palestinian film about two men chosen for a suicide bombing mission. Read more about both films on the PSC website and join us for this special screening.
"Best wishes for the New Year. I hope all of you had an opportunity for rest and renewal during the holiday break. I want to congratulate the scores of faculty and staff who produced brilliant testimony for the Commission on Higher Education in the last days of the semester. The Commission’s final report, when it is released in June, is likely to set the tone for conversation about the public universities in this state for years to come. It is essential that the voice of the people who make CUNY work be heard. We will continue to work with the Commission and to update you as the final report takes shape.” ~Barbara Bowen, President