Rank and File Call Upon Professional Staff Congress (PSC) Union to Reject Weak Labor Contract
By Sami Disu
Rank and File members of the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) urge faculty and staff colleagues to vote NO on a tentative agreement reached with the City University of New York (CUNY) The PSC announced the agreement last week as a “historic” salary win for CUNY’s tens of thousands of adjunct faculty.
Adjuncts were angered that their living-wage demand for $7,000 per course as the minimum starting salary was abandoned at the bargaining table. Current adjunct pay for most part-timers is $3,200 per course, a poverty wage in NYC. The tentative agreement achieved only $5,500 per course starting in 2022, the last year of the contract. The raise was paid for by eliminating step increases for adjuncts and forfeiting 10 months of retroactive raises from all job titles, further dismaying faculty and staff in the union.
Organizers from 7K or Strike, the rank and file movement that pushed the original salary demand, are now launching a VOTE NO campaign. They are urging PSC members, including full-time faculty, adjunct faculty, and professional staff, to defeat the tentative agreement and return to the bargaining table while mobilizing for a strike authorization vote, which is the only way to break the hold of austerity.
$5,500 per course is a poverty wage now and in 2022. (Adjuncts already earn from $5,500 to $11,000 at most other New York City universities)
To get around New York’s public sector pattern bargaining, in which all unions win the same 2% annual raises for members, the bump in adjunct pay is structured as a “productivity” increase that adds one weekly paid hour to each course. The contract language requires the extra hour to be spent on campus working with students, and means adjuncts will have to do extra work on top of their current tasks. Adjuncts now have to do more work for poverty wages.
The elimination of step increases undermines seniority and institutes a pay freeze between the expiration of the contract and the ratification of the next one, which can take years.
Raises for adjuncts were paid for by all titles forfeiting 10 months of retroactive salary increases that they were owed from the previous lapsed contract.
Many CUNY campuses are already cutting budgets, increasing class sizes, eliminating programs, and reducing the number of adjunct faculty; the contract does nothing to cap class sizes nor secure precarious adjunct jobs.
When billions are spent on new buildings, multiple CUNY top administrators make six-figure salaries, and Governor Cuomo & Mayor Di Blasio found $11 billion for four new prisons and $3 billion for Amazon in the last year, adjuncts are asking why they continue to make poverty wages at CUNY.
“The proposed contract is being sold as progress for adjuncts, but having to wait till 2022 for $5500 per course is woefully inadequate for any adjunct to live in New York City,” said Sami Disu, adjunct lecturer in the Africana Studies Department at John Jay College. “Also, the additional office hour requirement for adjuncts will likely open the door for abuse by some CUNY departments. Other titles like adjunct College Lab Technicians, who are just as exploited as adjuncts, will have to make do with a pay cut because the 2% salary raises each year do not keep up with inflation. If we want to build a CUNY where professors can teach without worrying about going into debt or living on food stamps, then we must reject this contract and send our bargaining team back to the table.”
“The PSC claims that the city and state have agreed to pay for these raises, but they won’t say how many positions their budget includes,” said Jane Guskin, adjunct lecturer in the Urban Studies department at Queens College. “Already 15% of adjunct positions have been eliminated across CUNY for the spring semester. How many of us did they throw under the bus so the rest of us could get this totally inadequate raise?”
“As a full professor of 23 years at CUNY’s Lehman College, I’ve seen how poorly paid our adjunct faculty are and how few resources our students have,” said Stuart Chen-Hayes, a professor in the Counseling, Leadership, Literacy, and Special Education department at Lehman College. “We need our union to fight harder against austerity budgets, class size increases, and budget cuts with real gains in a contract. The current settlement is nowhere near enough, does nothing to stop pattern bargaining, and still does not get the majority of faculty--adjuncts--to a living wage in the USA’s most expensive city. The mayor and governor found $3B for Amazon and $11B for new jails, so they could find that money for public workers to support our students but they refuse. I encourage a NO vote on this contract and urge our union to strike for real gains.”