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December 10, 2007

Free Speech Fight Back at LaGuardia

The PSC has filed a federal lawsuit and a motion for injunctive relief in federal court as well as  a grievance under the contract in response to the ban on union speech imposed by CUNY at LaGuardia Community College. As reported in last week’s edition of “This Week in the PSC,” a decree from LaGuardia a month ago prohibited faculty and staff from using the college’s e-mail system for union communications; communication about union business was the only subject of speech singled out for prohibition, which is an abrupt reversal of the college’s practice until now. Members at LaGuardia are outraged and fighting back, gathering signatures on a petition demanding that LaGuardia President Gail Mellow lift the ban and meeting to discuss further action.  Besides the clear free speech violation, the college’s new policy also impedes the union’s ability to function and advocate for its members because e-mail has become the accepted way to communicate notices about meetings, updates on bargaining and grievances and information on contractual rights. The timing of the new ban, in the midst of the PSC’s contract negotiations with CUNY, is particularly troubling. The union is continuing to review its additional legal options.

Collective Bargaining Sessions on December 14 and 21

Labor and management representatives will meet in two bargaining sessions before the semester break.  With a narrower list of demands on the table from both sides, these two sessions present an opportunity for real progress.  Consider seriously making one of these the session you attend—you may be more able to be there, now that classes are nearing their end.  If you have never attended a bargaining session, you have not taken advantage of the chance to see how negotiations really work—how CUNY management explains its positions and how the union represents you.  The PSC fought hard against CUNY management for your right to observe the bargaining first-hand, and you send a powerful message to the management team when you are there.  Both sessions are from 1:00 to 4:00pm; the session on the 14th will be held at the PSC office. Contact Amanda DeJesus Magalhaes to sign up.

PSC Voices at the Higher Ed Commission

Last Wednesday, PSC president Barbara Bowen and a half-dozen other PSC members were among the strongest voices offering testimony to the New York State Commission on Higher Education.  Many more PSC members will testify at an additional public hearing, scheduled for tomorrow, December 11.  At Wednesday’s hearing, PSC members spoke eloquently about the importance of reversing decades of underfunding for CUNY and restoring competitive salaries as a central part of any effort to improve the state’s higher education system. They also stressed the importance of replenishing the corps of full-time faculty, improving the untenable working conditions for the half of the faculty who are part-time and maintaining affordable tuition for CUNY students. You can read President Barbara Bowen’s testimony on the PSC website as well as a summary of the union’s proposal to the Commission. The Commission is expected to release its preliminary report on December 17. 

Faculty and Staff Protest CUNY’s Demands for Increased Control

On Wednesday, PSC members in the BMCC chapter will do a silent march through campus to protest management’s most dangerous concessionary demands in contract negotiations, specifically the demand to eliminate salary steps, the demand to remove department chairs from the union and the demand to slash job security for HEOs. If you’re at BMCC, join the demonstration! Meet in the second floor lobby at noon. Meanwhile, at John Jay members are circulating a petition calling for department chairs to stay department-elected, union-represented positions. And at LaGuardia, PSC chapter activists distributed contract buttons at the college’s holiday party and they were a big hit, worn by all.

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 sign up online for various activities. You can help the union collect retention data by letting us know about colleagues who have left CUNY because of salaries or workloads. And 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.

Last Week to Sign up for Long-term Care Coverage

PSC members have until this Friday, December 14, to sign up for the one-time, limited opportunity long-term care insurance plan being offered by the union’s Welfare Fund. The coverage is available, regardless of medical condition, to all active employees under 70, both full-time and part-time. The plan has been specially designed for PSC members. See the Welfare Fund website for further details and information on how to sign up.

Bronx CC Chapter Takes on Health and Safety Hazards

PSC members, together with their colleagues represented by DC 37, are kicking off a “Look What’s Crumbling at CUNY” campaign at Bronx Community College in response to chronic, neglected health and safety problems on campus. At issue is a series of conditions that imperil the teaching and learning environment and pose health and safety risks to students, faculty and staff alike. In front of Havemeyer Lab there is a large and growing sinkhole, once the size of a   Volkswagen but now large enough to hold a full-size SUV. Inside, there are crumbling walls and floors and unsanitary bathrooms. Faculty and staff have brought the issue to management’s attention numerous times and are pushing for a joint committee that can focus on addressing these serious concerns. This week’s edition of the Chief, the weekly civil service newspaper, will cover the campaign.

“Campaign of Outrage” Set to Protest during Finals Week

In the ongoing effort to shame five CUNY colleges into abandoning their practice of not paying adjuncts fully for the 15th week of the semester, PSC activists will once again stage a series of creative, informational protests during finals week. At issue is the practice of paying adjuncts for only two hours per class, rather than the usual three during exam week, on the specious grounds that adjuncts work less during this week—administering a final exam rather than teaching.  Anyone who has ever taught a class (or who cares about fairness and decency) knows how false that reasoning is. For more information on the campaign, visit the website.

"I look around the union and I see people in motion: protesting management’s attempted censorship at LaGuardia, making the case for competitive salaries at the Higher Ed Commission hearing, fighting unsafe conditions at Bronx Community College, gathering signatures on a petition in support of elected department chairs at John Jay, organizing for graduate student health insurance at the Grad Center, marching at BMCC, organizing at five campuses to demand fair pay in the final week for adjuncts. A union is as strong as its local chapters, and even in this busy season, I encourage  you to ‘act locally’ to make it even stronger.” ~Barbara Bowen, President