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January 28, 2008

The PSC in Albany, Twice, This Week

PSC leaders will be in Albany tomorrow talking to legislators about the need for increased funding for CUNY and the PSC’s legislative and budget priorities for 2008 at a breakfast for lawmakers sponsored by the union. We will be honoring Assembly Member Deborah Glick, chair of the Higher Education Committee, who is a Queens College graduate and a longtime supporter of CUNY. On Wednesday, PSC President Barbara Bowen will testify before a joint hearing of the Assembly Ways and Means and the Senate Finance Committees. Back in the City, the PSC will be at a City Council hearing on Thursday on the Commission on Higher Education’s report. The Commission identified chronic underfunding as the key structural problem CUNY faces—a point the PSC has been making for years—and that recognition is critical to realizing a significant reinvestment in CUNY. Governor Eliot Spitzer has given unprecedented prominence to higher education and there has never been a better opportunity to press our case for CUNY funding. Visit the 2008 budget section of the website for the union’s brochure on budget and legislative priorities, copies of testimony and more.

Contract Campaign Gears up for Spring Semester

As the spring semester starts and the PSC has been in negotiations for a new contract for nearly a year, the union is working on many different fronts to demand progress in the bargaining process. The need to restore competitive salaries is our most urgent priority, as CUNY faces a crisis stemming from the increasing difficulty to recruit and retain faculty and staff. The PSC has produced a new salary fact sheet with both a historical and a comparative perspective to underscore the need for salary restoration. Meanwhile, parental leave activists in the union are gearing up for a Valentine’s Day action to raise awareness on campuses about CUNY’s failure to provide even a single day of paid family leave.

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. You can help the union collect retention data by letting us know about colleagues who have left CUNY because of salaries or workloads. You can 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.  Check out the negotiations section on the website for more ways you can participate, and for additional background materials and negotiations updates.

Back at the bargaining table, the PSC team is negotiating with a new lead negotiator on management’s side, Pam Silverblatt, the new Vice Chancellor for Labor Relations. The union is working in informal sidebar sessions and other conversations to resolve as many issues as possible as we press CUNY for a financial offer.  In response to union pressure, CUNY has stepped up its conversations with the City and State to expedite their approval of an offer for the PSC and for other public-employee unions at CUNY, who also have not received an offer. 

Members March on LaGuardia President as Free Speech Fight Continues

Last Wednesday 20 PSC activists from every part of LaGuardia Community College—full-time and part-time faculty, HEOs and CLTs—along with PSC Executive Council members Mike Fabricant, Anne Friedman and Marcia Newfield, accompanied Chapter Chair Lorraine Cohen to LaGuardia President Gail Mellow's office, where they presented the president with a petition signed by 174 PSC members calling for the immediate lifting of the ban on union use of the college e-mail system.  Cohen pointed out the widespread outrage around the campus at the president's action, which is directly contrary to any spirit of mutual respect and is an abrupt reversal of the college’s prior practice. Beyond noting that the union is litigating the matter in court and has filed both a grievance and a complaint with the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB) and reiterating CUNY’s position that the union should bargain with the University for the right to use the e-mail system it had previously been allowed to use, Mellow said she could not comment further.  Wednesday’s action was part of LaGuardia members’ ongoing campaign against the computer use ban.

"Welcome back to the new semester.  For much of this week, the other PSC officers and I will be in Albany, meeting with legislators about the proposed budget for CUNY and testifying before the joint Assembly and Senate budget committees.  We see this as a year of unprecedented opportunity, given the governor’s focus on higher education.  The union’s goal is to urge the legislature to work with the governor and allocate the funds CUNY needs if it is to fulfill the governor’s vision.  Especially at a time of economic downturn, investment in higher education is crucial.  No other single investment produces as much value, dollar for dollar, as investment in public higher education.” ~Barbara Bowen, President