Strike Authorization Campaign Resolutions Pass at Four CUNY Campuses

The votes in favor of the Strike Authorization Campaign Resolution (hereafter SACR) on Thursday at both Bronx Community College and Borough of Manhattan Community college were nearly unanimous. In the photo above, BMCC Chapter Chair Kathleen Offenholley proudly raises her hand in favor of the vote that could mark a sweeping shift in strategy from the lobbying, nonconfrontational, legalistic tactics that characterize the PSC central’s general approach to union activism.

The SACR was passed at BMCC with two minor amendments and will be forwarded to the Executive Council of the PSC and to the Delegate Assembly. Four campuses–add to the list Queens College and the Graduate Center–have pasted the resolution so far this fall, concretizing the wave of interest that began last year when 11 campuses voted to endorse a $7KOS resolution. Votes are being scheduled at other campuses in the coming months.

The campaign lays out a coordinated practical strategy that encompasses financial, interpersonal, social, and material organization in the lead-up to a strike. Mass education on the importance of a strike, food drives and financial assistance, public relations committees, additional adjunct liaisoning, and broad faculty-student solidarity will all be needed in the coming months after the PSC releases what promises to be woefully inadequate contract proposal, as we take action to fight it.

In direct contradistinction to a climate of austerity, of pitting part-timers against full-timers, and students against staff, the SACR pushes for a climate of unity and support, stepping in for overworked adjunct liaisons and drawing on individual strengths to craft a cohesive and fundamentally pragmatic campaign historically proven to be the most effective way to achieve fair and equitable working conditions.

Over 40 people were present at BMCC over the course of the three-hour meeting, about average for a BMCC chapter meeting. 7K or Strike activists are becoming widely known as the most feisty, mobilized, energetic, and active participants in union democracy, and full-timers and part-timers alike have expressed their support of the movement from afar. Many adjuncts are barred from attending procedural meetings by the scheduling demands and overwork that create the need for a strike in the first place. No one showed up at BMCC to oppose the vote everyone was informed in advance was happening, and no one spoke out against it.

Instead, there was a great discussion of how to build support for a fully funded contract with $7K for adjuncts, and we also passed a resolution calling on the Executive Council to immediately begin preparing for a large rally in front of the Governor’s NYC offices to demand more funding for our contract and a tuition-free university.

Support for a strike has been rising across titles this semester as we face almost two years without a contract and PSC leadership continues to stall and prevaricate on the status of negotiations. At the well-attended Grad Center chapter meeting in September, the vote was 65 for and 16 against, which included a number of HEOs and librarians voting in favor of SACR. Members were perhaps incensed by the so-called “contract update” initially given at the meeting by Andrea Vásquez, who arguably did more to promote the necessity of a strike authorization campaign than anyone else who spoke.

Next week there is yet another Delegate Assembly meeting that looks to be devoid of any new contract proposal (known as the Memorandum of Agreement, or MOA) from the bargaining committee. As each day passes without a contract, more and more rank & file members are recognizing the viability of the SACR and the likely necessity of a strike to secure a fully funded contract that offers no less than $7k/course for adjuncts and refuses to allow gains at the expense of student tuition hikes. After all, even PSC President Barbara Bowen remarked at the last DA, “don’t just vote on personal affiliations, but what’s on offer and whether it’s the best for CUNY.”

If you would like to get involved in helping us build the strike authorization campaign, including a strike authorization committee, please contact 7KOS at 7korstrike@gmail.com.

Fall is here and still no contract!

This is a repost of an email sent out to PSC members and adjuncts earlier today:

Welcome back! As the fall semester begins, we wanted to reach out to you with some updates about the current contract negotiations and to encourage you to join us in the struggle to win a good contract for all PSC members that includes a minimum $7K per three-credit course for adjunct faculty.

As many of you may know, our contract expired nearly two years ago. Our union’s elected bargaining team has since failed to secure any increase in funding from either the CIty or the State, and current funding levels do not even keep pace with inflation—much less the cost of $7K per course for adjuncts. So now our union is stuck fighting for crumbs from an ever-shrinking pie to bring our wages closer to parity with full-time lecturers.

Unfortunately, instead of calling on the full power of the membership to keep the pressure on Albany, PSC-CUNY leaders have urged us to sit back and wait for the bargaining team to do its work. Meanwhile, the leadership have been silent on the recently approved tuition hikes that management claimed were needed to pay for our contract demands. While we don’t know what’s being discussed in the closed-door bargaining sessions, many of us fear a compromise that will not get us to $7K and may even deepen the two-tier system by expanding pay gaps among different categories of adjuncts, dividing our union even further. Since PSC-CUNY has declined to bargain over class sizes, we are also concerned that framing any increase for adjuncts around productivity, as the bargaining team has done, opens the door to making us work more, when we are already working far more than the hours we are paid for.

We know that a strike is a big undertaking, especially when the Taylor Law threatens us with serious penalties, but we also know that until we really stand up together to fight for a fully-funded CUNY and a fair contract, the budget will keep getting slashed and our working conditions—which are our students’ learning conditions—will keep getting worse.

$7K or Strike is currently mobilizing for a series of special chapter meetings and town halls over the coming weeks to discuss the contract crisis and to put forward resolutions calling for a strike authorization campaign.

We need your help to make this happen. In order to make quorum, we will need every adjunct who supports going on strike for $7K to be at their chapter meetings ready to vote yes.

To get involved, contact your campus steward or $7K or Strike.

And please join the $7K or Strike contingent at this year’s Labor Day Parade, this Saturday, September 7, to promote a strike authorization campaign and to build solidarity with rank-and-file members of other unions. Meet us at 10am with the PSC contingent on 44th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. Look for the $7K or Strike t-shirts. The parade is scheduled to start moving at 10:15am.

In Solidarity and Struggle,
$7K or Strike!
7korstrike.org

Rutgers Adjuncts Rank-and-File Caucus Stands United with CUNY Adjuncts’ $7K or Strike Campaign

We are honored to reprint this statement from the Rutgers Adjuncts Rank-and-File Caucus in solidarity with the campaign for 7K or Strike, which also outlines strategic imperatives for a radical academic labor movement, drawn from their important work at Rutgers. As the professional labor bureaucrats and aspiring movement managers congratulate themselves for “revolutionary” austerity contracts and attempt to move “beyond the rank-and-file strategy,” this is the kind of vision we need!

The Rutgers Adjuncts Rank-and-File Caucus applauds adjuncts at CUNY and their progressive $7k or Strike campaign. Redress of adjunctification must be centered in any progressive movement within academia, particularly when adjuncts, graduate workers, and tenured faculty bargain side by side — to do any less is a rejection of solidarity and an acceptance of the corporate hierarchical status quo.

Adjunctified professors deserve more than to be paid a pittance at any college or university, but it is especially unethical that adjuncts who live and work in New York City, the world’s economic hub, receive poverty wages. $7,000 per course should be the absolute minimum for adjunct professors at CUNY; anything less than $7,000 fails to provide a basic living wage and does not create equal working conditions.

Like adjunct experiences across this nation from Rutgers to Tulane, the present system at CUNY is untenable. We call upon the tenured faculty, students, and CUNY management to recognize the fundamental need of their professoriate to be paid respectable wages (at least $7,000 per course). We also encourage PSC CUNY to learn from the lessons of Rutgers’ recent contract ratifications: as you continue to mobilize and bargain, recognize that a win that does not meet the needs of your most vulnerable workers falls short of a win and is a hollow victory.

If CUNY management attempts to force a contract on adjuncts via a summer ratification, the Rutgers Adjuncts Rank-and-File Caucus will defend $7k or Strike and endorse a campaign against ratification, as they stood with us during our #RUVotingNO campaign. Adjuncts are stronger when they are united.

Adjunct organizers at CUNY continue to inspire contingent faculty around the country to resist the insidious corporatization of the university as well as the tepid leadership of existing corporate union structures. We look forward to forging new bonds between our respective groups, and fighting together to bring adjunct issues to the forefront of all discussions about higher education.

About the RA-RFC: Established in April 2019, the Rutgers Adjuncts Rank-and-File Caucus is a growing coalition of adjunct professors (PTLs) on all three Rutgers University campuses—New Brunswick, Newark, and Camden—as well as those who teach through Rutgers online and at remote sites. For more information, visit rutgersadjuncts.org.

PSC Rank and file says: NO SUMMER CONTRACT, STRIKE AUTHORIZATION CAMPAIGN NOW

Last Friday afternoon, nearly 80 adjuncts and allies gathered at a meeting of the Committee of Adjuncts and Part-Timers at PSC headquarters to vote on three resolutions proposed by members and to hear from PSC President Barbara Bowen on the state of the contract negotiations.

President Bowen gave a lackluster “update” on the ongoing negotiations, providing no information that hadn’t already been emailed to the membership over a week ago. She reiterated the union’s tired strategy of lobbying Albany. There has been no response from management to the PSC’s sell-out counter-proposal. She claimed, without a shred of evidence, that the union was in a position to pressure the state and the city before the end of the legislative session on June 19th. As a member pointed out during the Q&A, the union, not management, is under pressure in this situation. Vice-President Andrea Vasquez, a longtime labor bureaucrat and former chair of the HEO chapter, used her time on the mic to tamp down expectations, telling members it was not possible to get everything at once and to depict the leadership as the vanguard in the fight for $7K/course for adjuncts.

In sharp distinction to the vague and unmoored leadership strategy, the rank and file delivered three strong resolutions on how to move forward. The first resolution addressed the need to reach out to working class New Yorkers across the city and organize a rally for $7K this fall. It passed nearly unanimously.

Amidst rumors, confirmed at the meeting by President Bowen, that the bargaining team is angling to force through another terrible summer contract, a second resolution called on the Delegate Assembly to postpone or table any vote on a proposed contract until after the summer, until it can guarantee a healthy debate about any proposed contract among all members of the union. Without holding a strike authorization vote, any proposed contract that failed to meet $7K should not be put to members for ratification. It also passed unanimously.

Finally, a third resolution outlined a strike authorization campaign the union could implement. Among many creative ideas, it proposed to convert of the duties of Adjunct Liaisons from simply meeting membership card quotas to organizing toward a strike, and to create an online fundraising platform to build a “militancy fund” to support members during a strike.

The meeting, which was the most highly attended in recent history, starkly revealed the poverty of the union leadership’s strategy. The rank and file are leading the way with a clear strategy, one that fits on a two-sided sheet of paper. Meanwhile, the leadership has already surrendered and is ready to sheepishly take advantage of the summer months to push through a contract that does not get adjuncts to $7K. The rank-and-filers in the room were of one voice, $7K or Strike!

John Jay Becomes the 11th PSC Chapter to Endorse $7K or Strike

After months of intensive organizing in classrooms, faculty offices, adjunct cubbies, and hallways at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, an overflowing, standing-room-only PSC chapter meeting on April 15th, 2019 adopted a “$7K or Strike” motion without amendments, 62–48–4. In doing so, John Jay becomes the eleventh CUNY chapter to pass a $7KOS resolution. The feeling in the room was electric. Members across job titles expressed our commitment to standing up for each other, and to building the capacity to press our non-negotiable demand to make adjunct working conditions livable. Students, alumni, PSC workers from other units, and community members all joined to show their support, swelling the meeting to well over 150 people, who spilled out into the halls and strained to hear the proceedings inside.

Continue reading “John Jay Becomes the 11th PSC Chapter to Endorse $7K or Strike”

April Fools! CUNY’s Budget Reveals the Folly of Lobbying

A lobbying proponent entreats the Board of Trustees, in vain.

The verdict is in. After over a year of PSC’s (latest) costly and time-consuming effort to lobby “progressive” politicians and the Board of Trustees to enlarge CUNY’s budget, the new budget dropped on April 1st. To say it is wretched is an understatement. It doesn’t even fund CUNY’s mandatory cost increases such as rent, energy, contractual step increases, and fringe benefits. It’s unclear how CUNY will even fund something President Bowen claimed was won in the last contract: a course load reduction for full-time faculty. For adjuncts, the situation is even more dire. There’s nothing even approaching $7K. Adjuncts are offered the same paltry 2% raise everyone else gets.

In short, all the bus trips to Albany, pep rallies for the cameras, endorsements of “progressive” Democrats, phone calls, postcards, and persuasive moral arguments at the Board of Trustees meetings have come to naught. This latest rebuke of the lobbying tactic might be brushed off by the relatively affluent full-timers who call the shots in PSC, and continue to cling to illusions that change will come from speaking truth to power. They are comfortable enough to be able to afford their fantasies. For adjunct faculty, however, these illusions threaten to rob us of our ability to keep the lights on, the rent paid, and our most basic needs met. For us, this foolishness is deathly serious.

Continue reading “April Fools! CUNY’s Budget Reveals the Folly of Lobbying”