On the same day that the California Faculty Association (CFA) announced that 94% of its voting membership had voted to authorize strike actions, faculty and staff represented by another AAUP-affiliate, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) at the City University of New York (CUNY), demonstrated yesterday evening outside the CUNY offices in Manhattan. PSC members have gone six years without a raise and have been working without a contract since 2010.
At the demonstration some 50 PSC members were arrested when they blocked the entrance to the administration’s offices. They were supported by hundreds of others. Among those arrested was PSC President Barbara Bowen, a professor of English at Queens College and CUNY’s Graduate Center.
Before the protest, the university made an offer for a six-year contract, beginning in 2010, which would include salary increases totaling 6 percent — in other words, an average of 1% per year. The university described the contract in a news release as reflective of its “current fiscal condition and its ability to fund a new contract.”
“The union’s initial response was that the proposal is completely inadequate and will further endanger academic quality at CUNY,” the Professional Staff Congress of the American Federation of Teachers said in a press release. CUNY has 25,000 faculty and professional staff and currently has 500,000 students enrolled.
Bowen said the increases would not keep up with inflation and therefore represented a salary cut. “We feel that education at CUNY is endangered,” she said, adding that salaries at CUNY were not competitive with other public universities in the region.
“7,600 full-time CUNY faculty earn salaries that lag far behind those at comparable universities in the region, that don’t cover 6 years of inflation and rent hikes. “4,400 professional staff and 13,000 low-wage, part-time adjunct faculty, who teach more than half CUNY’s courses, also haven’t had a raise in 6 years,” the PSC statement added.
In calling for the demonstration, Bowen wrote PSC members: “CUNY management’s failure to produce an economic offer has already begun to damage the quality of education for CUNY students. The failure to resolve our contract is a failure to invest in the college education of working people, people of color and the poor in this city.”
At the union’s Delegate Assembly on October 15, Bowen announced on behalf of the Executive Council that the PSC plans to hold a strike authorization vote. A strike authorization vote—even though it is not a vote to strike—is a significant escalation of our campaign, especially since public employees in New York do not have the right to strike. There will be several months of preparation before the vote is taken. A mass PSC meeting on November 19 will offer an opportunity to discuss and plan for the vote.
The AAUP stands firmly in support of our courageous colleagues in the PSC. Their fight is not only a fight for the economic security of those who teach but for the future of genuine and accessible higher education.