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May 12, 2008

Economic Bargaining Session Today

As we write, the PSC negotiating committee is at the bargaining table with representatives of CUNY and the City of New York.  After weeks of union pressure to produce an economic offer, CUNY has come to the table.  It’s clear that the rallies and demonstrations demanding movement on an offer worked—notably the April 28 action at the Board of Trustees.  Thank you to every member who took part!  The union will continue to press for economic terms that allow real progress toward competitive salaries and that address other urgent needs. Keep the pressure on! Watch the website and the next edition of “This Week” for a report from today’s session.

Back to Albany, Pushing for Unemployment Insurance Bill

PSC members are traveling to Albany today for another round of lobbying, organized by NYSUT. Though a State budget was settled in early April, the budget fight is not over, as the governor has proposed additional cuts (see next item). On non-budget issues our top priority is the bill (A 2515 / S 4845) expanding unemployment insurance access for part-time faculty. 

Current state law prevents adjunct faculty from collecting unemployment insurance benefits if they are given “reasonable assurance” that they will be rehired in the following semester.  Our contract requires that adjuncts be given letters of notification of appointment or non-reappointment for the following semester or year.  CUNY’s reappointment notification letters, however, place many conditions on reappointment. They are little more than letters of intent to rehire but CUNY claims they constitute “reasonable assurance.”  A 2515 / S 4845 would raise the legal standard for defining what constitutes “reasonable assurance” by explicitly stating that an offer to rehire that is contingent on future enrollment, funding or programmatic change does not constitute “reasonable assurance,” and that a written letter making a conditional offer cannot be the only evidence considered in making a determination to deny unemployment benefits. This bill would remove a serious impediment that prevents adjuncts from collecting benefits. 

Please take a moment now to add your support and send a letter to your State Senate and Assembly representatives supporting this reform.

State Budget Ax Still Swinging, Aimed at SUNY

Governor Paterson has announced a second wave of budget cuts, after the State budget settlement, cuts that take a whack at CUNY and a much bigger whack at SUNY. At issue is the governor’s plan to require the universities to set aside money derived from non-general fund accounts (private revenue sources) and give it back to the State. In CUNY’s case, which doesn’t have much in the way of private revenue sources, the cut would amount to $4-6 million—a sizable cut in a lean budget year. But the damage to SUNY would be far worse: $109 million. PSC members lobbying in Albany tomorrow will push for restorations for both universities, but all of us can help fight the devastating SUNY cuts right now. Visit the United University Professions (UUP) website and click on the “Save SUNY Now” button to send a letter to State legislators. Additional cuts to public higher education, needed now more than even, are unacceptable, and that’s a message we need Albany to hear loud and clear.

CUNY at the Council a Big Success; Next Step, Hearing on Friday

The PSC’s “CUNY at the Council” event on Wednesday was a big success. Over 150 people turned out, including many students, who brought youthful energy to the message of the day: “Cuts to CUNY lead to holes in the future,” in the words of one of the signs they brought. Fourteen City Council Members joined the PSC, as did New York City Central Labor Council Executive Director Ed Ott. Donna Gill, a HEO in the Financial Aid Office at Hunter, spoke, as did President Barbara Bowen, who emceed the event. The union also delivered 25,000 of the “CUNY Rising” postcards to the City Council. There were three student speakers: Mark Bradshaw from Hostos, Maria Lopez from NYC Tech and Curtis Brown from BMCC. Press coverage included WNYC, Crain’s New York Business, Indy Media and forthcoming articles in the Chief (published Tuesday) and the Times-Ledger in Queens (published Wednesday). Read more on the PSC website.

“CUNY at the Council” was just one part of the PSC’s effort to restore the proposed City budget cuts, however. Equally important are the letters PSC members are sending the the Council Speaker and the Mayor. If you haven’t sent yours, you can do it now. Members are also visiting individual Council Members. This Friday, PSC officers and members will testify at the City Council budget hearing. The hearing is from 12 to 1:30, at City Hall, and the union encourages members to come and testify (there is no advance sign-up to testify, so just get there a little early to add your name to the list). We also encourage members to join NYPIRG, CUNY and the PSC at a press conference at 11am on the steps of City Hall. CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein and PSC President Barbara Bowen will both be speaking, in addition to City Council Members.

Brooklyn College Forum a Hit

Speaking of big successes, last Thursday’s public forum on working and learning conditions at Brooklyn College was a big success as well. Over 40 people turned out to share their concerns with State Senator Kevin Parker and Assembly Member Rhoda Jacobs, who expressed support for faculty, staff and students, and at times registered shock at some of the conditions PSC members and students face. Faculty spoke about salaries, retention of junior faculty and teaching loads; HEOs spoke about overtime and job security; CLTs spoke about unsafe working conditions and lack of respect. Students spoke about financial aid and class sizes. The legislators urged people to keep raising the issues with the entire Brooklyn Senate and Assembly delegation.