BY HANK REICHMAN
Four days after the expiration of their contract, hundreds of faculty and staff at the City University of New York (CUNY), which serves a half million students, kicked off a contract campaign by their union, the AAUP-affiliated Professional Staff Congress (PSC), December 4 with a press conference, rallies at two CUNY campuses, disruptions of the CUNY Board of Trustees meeting, a lighted march, and a 25-foot light-up sign.
Accompanied by representatives of community groups, other union leaders, elected officials and CUNY students, PSC President Barbara Bowen explained that a good contract for CUNY faculty and staff is good for all New Yorkers:
There would be no New York without CUNY. CUNY is the single most successful university in the country in enabling poor and working-class graduates to achieve long-term economic security. Yet leading professors consistently turn down positions at CUNY and many current professors leave because the salaries are so uncompetitive. CUNY faculty salaries are significantly lower than those at Rutgers, Stony Brook, Fordham and Pace University. The most damaging result of planned underinvestment in CUNY is the University’s reliance on grossly underpaid part-time faculty, ‘adjuncts,’ to teach more than half of the courses. It’s time for the CUNY trustees to provide decent salaries at CUNY; anything less is an admission that the education—and the future—of New York’s working people and their families does not matter.
It took a six-year fight and a strike authorization vote — even though New York law bans strikes by public employees — to win raises and back pay in the contract that just expired. But CUNY’s full-time faculty remain underpaid compared to faculty at comparable institutions and CUNY adjuncts still earn near-poverty wages. Academic staff, whom students count on in counseling and administrative offices, libraries and labs, are overworked and underpaid. The union is therefore demanding competitive salaries for all and significant increases for part-time faculty, improvements to students’ learning conditions, better job security, and protection of academic integrity and faculty rights in online education.
Susan DiRaimo, adjunct at Lehman College and the union’s vice president for part-time personnel, said:
Year after year, as CUNY has been underfunded by New York City and State, it has slashed costs by employing thousands of part-time faculty, who are paid far less per course than full-time faculty. Today, there are 12,000 adjunct faculty at CUNY, many with PhDs and other high-level credentials. We now teach the majority of CUNY courses—yet thousands of us live on $27,000 a year or less. There are adjuncts on food stamps. The CUNY trustees have accepted this unacceptable situation for too long. It’s time for them to find a solution and bring per-course payment to $7,000. We teach at CUNY despite the pitiful pay because we believe in CUNY’s mission, but we are sick and tired of being exploited by the University in return.
Yssed David Tobo, Vice Chair of Legislative Affairs, CUNY Student Senate, said:
The University Student Senate stands in solidarity with the faculty and staff of CUNY. The Professional Staff Congress is leading the cause, and a win for them is a win for the 500,000 students within the CUNY system. Students count on the University as a vehicle for upward mobility, a means to a better life. And students deserve access to the leading faculty and staff in their perspective fields. A quality education can only come from a University that is willing to invest in its faculty and staff. We ask the University to negotiate a fully funded contract that ensures quality and good learning conditions for us as students and fair pay for faculty and staff, including adjuncts
To read statements from other supporters go here. And here are some images from the kickoff activities: