November 5, 2007
Mass Meeting Kicks Off New Phase of Contract Campaign
Nearly a thousand PSC members packed the Great Hall at Cooper Union last Tuesday and rallied together for a new contract. The PSC has been in bargaining with CUNY management since February and has been working under an expired contract since September 19, but CUNY management has still not made a financial offer.
At the mass meeting, PSC members heard from colleagues across the campuses about the pressing issues at stake in these negotiations—from the need for paid parental leave to job security for adjuncts and more, and the need to defeat management’s concessionary demands for increased control. “The question before us tonight,” said PSC President Barbara Bowen, “ is what we aim to achieve in this contract and how we plan to achieve it." Bowen outlined a multi-contract strategy, and called for a tight, unified focus in the current round of bargaining on two primary areas: 1) the need to restore eroded CUNY salaries and to secure other provisions to improve recruitment and retention; and 2) the need to tackle CUNY’s abusive adjunct system by gaining adjunct job security and stable health insurance for eligible part-timers and graduate employees. She emphasized that the fight on each of these issues—and on the other, smaller issues on which the union will continue to negotiate—must be everyone’s fight.
Participants in the meeting also heard presentations from the union’s other top officers on the extent of the erosion of CUNY salaries and on what each of us can do to be part of the strategic campaign. A series of graphs comparing our salaries over time and with other comparable institutions brought home the decline in the real-dollar value of our earning.
The evening ended with a commitment from members and leaders alike to step up the pressure on CUNY management. Members signed up for participation in the contract campaign, volunteering to do everything from wearing buttons and putting posters on their office doors to participating in campus actions against management’s concessionary demands and joining the “My Five” organizing network. They also filled out forms to generate data about colleagues who have left CUNY because of uncompetitive salaries and conditions; the effort to document the “lost faculty and staff ” is a crucial tool in demonstrating that salary and other improvements are necessary for addressing the University’s recruitment and retention problem. PSC leaders announced a new public campaign at the meeting, designed to alert students, allies and political and civic leaders of the crisis CUNY faces as a result of its uncompetitive salaries.
If you missed the meeting, you can still sign up to participate in all these activities. You can also read President Barbara Bowen’s speech offering an overview of the union’s strategy, and First Vice President Steve London’s analysis of the salary data, as well as the raw data itself.
PSC in the Press and on the Air!
Last week, the civil service weekly newspaper the Chief ran a feature-length expos é of working conditions for CUNY adjuncts. You can read the article, provocatively titled “Adjuncts: CUNY’s Migrant Workers?,” on the PSC website.
Meanwhile, PSC activists at Queens College who have been organizing to push for paid parental leave have garnered some media attention of their own. The Queens student paper, Knight News, has run two stories highlighting PSC members and the union’s demand for paid parental leave in this round of bargaining: read them here and here. The Knight News coverage caught the attention of a producer at WNBC, and as a result “Today in New York,” the station’s morning news show, is doing a feature story on the Queens activists and the PSC’s negotiations. The story will run Tuesday, November 13, currently scheduled at 5:50am (the program runs from 5 to 7am). WNBC interviewed Queens chapter members Julie George, Karen Strassler and Amy Chazkel on campus, as well as President Barbara Bowen; and they came to the mass meeting, where they also interviewed Keena Lipsitz, from Queens, and Carolina Bank Mu ñ oz , from Brooklyn. So set your alarm early on November 13 and watch the PSC on NBC!
The mass meeting was also covered by reporters from the Hunter College student paper, the Envoy, the York College paper, Pandora’s Box, the Independent Media Center paper, the Indypendent, and the Chief. “This Week in the PSC” will post links to these stories as soon as they are published.
" Thank you to everyone who came to the mass meeting and to everyone who worked to make it a success. Your efforts paid off—in a packed hall and a vibrant audience of faculty and staff from every campus in the University. The PSC has a clear, public, collective agenda—one that’s worth fighting for. If we stand firm behind that, I believe we can be successful.” ~Barbara Bowen, President