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June 25, 2007

Legislative Victory: Pension Equity Bill Passes

On Thursday night, in the waning hours of this year’s New York State legislative session, the State Senate followed the Assembly in passing the pension equity legislation the PSC has long advocated that would give eligible Optional Retirement Plan (ORP) members (largely those in TIAA-CREF) an effective increase of up to 3% in take-home pay, a benefit that TRS participants have enjoyed since 2000, when legislation affecting most New York City employees was approved. Now we need to convince Governor Spitzer to sign it. Getting this far represents six years of steady work by the PSC to raise the issue, and then educate and mobilize to get legislation passed. The involvement of hundreds, maybe thousands, of PSC members over the years was critical—phone calls, faxes, e-mails to legislators, lobbying trips to Albany and more, it all made a difference.

At the time of ORP’s creation, the Legislature was explicit in its intent to ensure the equitable treatment of all public retirement systems. Legislation in 2000 gave members of the Employees' Retirement System (ERS) and the Teachers' Retirement System (TRS) who had ten years of membership or credited service in the pension system relief from contributions. The bill just passed allows ORP members to catch up with their TRS brethren. If signed by the Governor, it would eliminate the 3% deductions from paychecks and thereby would put an extra 3% in eligible members’ pockets. The deductions would be phased out over three years.

Thank you to all who helped make this happen, and stay tuned for an update on the efforts to secure the Governor’s signature.

Bargaining Report

The PSC bargaining team and management met on Friday for a session in which the PSC described in detail its demands for job security for CUNY's most experienced adjuncts and for a new, promotional title for college laboratory technicians.  While the session was useful in elucidating points of agreement and difference, it was clear that a large gulf remains between management and union positions.  CUNY management has still failed to make any financial offer to the union.  Their failure to offer an economic package makes it seem increasingly unlikely that management is ready to settle the next contract by the expiration date of the current one, in September 2007.

Sign the Petition this Week!

As bargaining heats up, it becomes even more important to show your support for the union’s position that CUNY faculty and staff are entitled to the salaries and conditions we need to do our jobs. Over 1,600 of your colleagues have already made a public statement of their support; join them by signing the petition on the PSC’s bargaining agenda today. We will publish the names of all who have signed in the summer issue of Clarion. The final deadline to sign in order to have your name appear in Clarion is July 10.

For a full list of the PSC’s demands, management’s demands, analysis and more, visit the negotiations section of the website.

Delegate Assembly Wraps up for this Year

The PSC Delegate Assembly held its last meeting of the year on Thursday; meetings will resume in September with the new semester. The meeting included a lively discussion of CUNY's bargaining proposal to take away annual step increases, a provision won and defended by the PSC for decades.  Delegates also passed several resolutions, including one in response to the proposed boycott of Israeli universities called by the British academic union, the University and College Union (UCU).  The resolution calls on UCU members to reject the boycott proposal, citing the importance of the free exchange of ideas among scholars, and acknowledging that PSC members hold a range of intensely-felt positions on the question of Israel's expansion into post-1967 territories. Click here to read the PSC’s resolution.

2006 Election Challenge Dismissed by DOL

This month the federal Department of Labor dismissed an appeal by PSC members affiliated with the CUNY Alliance, a caucus within the union, alleging violations in the way the 2006 elections for the PSC leadership were conducted. The CUNY Alliance had originally challenged the election results in a complaint to the PSC Elections Committee. When the committee found the complaints unfounded, the CUNY Alliance availed itself of the established appeals process, taking the complaint to the Delegate Assembly, then the PSC’s parent union, the AFT, and finally the DOL. At each level the complaint was rejected; the DOL conducted an exhaustive investigation before concluding there had been no misconduct of the election. Democratic union structures are a source of strength, and the PSC is pleased that its elections are open to scrutiny and a process for challenges, and also pleased that the 2006 election has been found to be fair several times over.

If you’ve ever wondered whether your phone calls and faxes to Albany make a difference, now, at least on one issue, you can see that the answer is 'Yes!' The passage of the pension equity bill in Albany was not just a legislative effort; it was an organizing project.  For six years, the PSC has been building support for the bill, first within NYSUT, then with our sister union at SUNY, then with CUNY management, then with TIAA-CREF, then with the Legislature.”   ~Barbara Bowen, President