A Rebuttal to President Bowen’s July 11th email and the FAQs on the PSC website
by CUNY Adjuncts and Graduate-Student Employees for a Fair Contract
The vote on the proposed PSC-CUNY contract is underway and you should be receiving an email from the American Arbitration Association with instructions on how to vote.
We urge you to VOTE NO! The proposed contract widens the inequity between adjuncts (along with graduate student-employees) and full-time faculty and reinforces the adjuncts’ second class status. A contract that fails half the faculty, fails the entire membership.
FIVE reasons to Vote NO:
- The 10.41 percent salary increase means the entire bargaining unit made NO real progress in seven years! With a salary increase at or near the rate of inflation, your buying power is no more than it was in October 2009! (See more detail below.)
- The contract widens inequity in pay and benefits.
- There is no easing of the adjunct workload restrictions.
- The contract fails to provide adjunct job security for the many. The provision for multi-year appointments for adjuncts is poorly designed and deeply flawed.
- The contract is unfair. It weakens the union and does not serve out students.
What will happen if the contract is voted down?
The provisions of the contract would not go into effect. This is true. The PSC would have to back to the negotiating table.
But first, and most importantly, the leadership would have to recognize that adjuncts, graduate student-employees and a portion of full-timers are deeply dissatisfied! And that no contract can be ratified, if more than half the membership is not served.
Second, the leadership should immediately meet with those who voted no and open up the negotiating process. They should take seriously the three key adjunct demands of a movement toward pay parity, greater workload flexibility and a job security system that is inclusive and fair (and incorporates the protections of traditional seniority).
Third, all of us should engage in a serious discussion of the divide between full-time and part-time faculty, how that division can be reconciled and our contract strategy revised.
Is it divisive to vote against the contract?
No, it is not. Let’s be clear that the contract represents, in large part, a failure of the leadership—of their outlook and their strategy! By failing to represent adjuncts and failing to fight for what adjuncts repeatedly said they wanted (namely, a significant movement toward pay parity, greater workload flexibility and job security based on a traditional seniority system), the leadership has given us a contract that is unacceptable. This is divisive!
Is it worth voting against the contract, if we aren’t sure it could be defeated?
Yes, of course. We will be sending a message loud and clear that many members of the CUNY faculty and staff are greatly dissatisfied with their union. Business as usual is not acceptable!
What about the vote in the PSC Executive Council and the Delegate Assembly?
Yes, both bodies along with the bargaining team approved the contract. But these bodies are dominated by full-time faculty and staff. Adjuncts and graduate students are very poorly represented in each body.
Does the salary increase match the rate of inflation? And what is the significance of this anyway?
President Bowen and the leadership of the union have taken great pains to say that the salary increase just manages to keep pace with inflation. They compare the salary increase of 8.784 percent which covers from the end of the last contract through April 2016 to an inflation rate of 8.8 percent covering the period from 2010 to 2016. In fact, there is a flaw in their calculation which is explained below, BUT first there is a more important point.
Even “if” the across- the-board salary increase just meets the rate of inflation, this is not something wonderful! It only means that salaries have stagnated over seven years. The buying power of our salaries is no more than it was in 2009. The entire bargaining unit has made NO real gains!
In fact, the salaries of full-time faculty and staff have fallen further behind their counterparts at other universities, including public universities. Why should the membership accept such disparities?
Moreover, for adjuncts and graduate–student employees, there is no movement toward pay parity in this contract. An across-the-board increase merely widens the gap between these faculty and the full-time faculty.
Now back to the flaw in their calculation: Since the last salary increase was back in October 2009, one should be comparing the salary increase against the inflation rate from the end of 2009 to 2016. In that case, using the BLS measure of inflation for the New York/New Jersey area, prices have risen by 10.5 percent from 2009 to 2016. And by this measure, the salary increase of 8.874 percent does not even keep pace with inflation. So our buying power is even less.
Does this contract move adjuncts toward pay parity?
No. Adjuncts and graduate–student employees fought to try to get the leadership to bargain for $5,000K starting salary per three-hour course (or, at least, a significant movement toward this). There is no such movement in the contract. These employees also asked the leadership to fight for an office hour for EVERY class. Again, this is not in the contract. (Though the leadership continually speaks of adjuncts having “paid office hours”, in fact, most classes taught by adjuncts do not have paid office hours. Other classes are allotted, at most, only 30 minutes per class. Don’t CUNY students deserve more?)
The leadership never made the low wages of adjunct faculty central to the contract campaign. At a time when there is heightened sympathy for low-wage workers across the country, this could have been a powerful message. But the leadership repeatedly said, “We have prioritized job security.” Who decided adjuncts would only be entitled to one main demand? Did not the union promise to fight for salary equity, too?
What about the multi-year appointments for adjuncts?
The new provision for multi-year appointments is very poorly designed and ad hoc. The bargaining team backed into a system that excludes most adjuncts and subjects those few adjuncts who do get the multi-year appointment to an ill-defined, perpetual review process.
The provision as it stands will create a new tier of “3-year appointment” adjuncts based on narrow eligibility criteria and leave all those who don’t qualify for the multi-year appointment (and that will be the majority of adjuncts, including many long-serving adjuncts) without job security.
For a job security system to work it must be inclusive. To be fair it must incorporate traditional seniority rights (i.e., seniority by date of hire no matter how many courses one teaches.) Many departments already try to respect such seniority. By not incorporating seniority into the new system, it will undermine the few discretionary protections that adjuncts already have.
Why couldn’t the PSC leadership have negotiated for greater workload flexibility?
Management is actually amendable to easing the adjunct workload restrictions; it is our union leadership that isn’t! The contract makes no changes in the workload restrictions despite widespread and longstanding opposition among adjuncts to these restrictions!
The current workload restrictions limiting adjunct to teaching nine classroom hours at one campus and only one course, of up to six hours at another, are onerous. These rules hamper adjuncts’ ability to make a living, particularly as many courses have become 4- hour courses.
Adjuncts sought greater workload flexibility that would allow an adjunct to teach up to 12 classroom hours at one campus and remove the one-course restriction at a second. The union appears to be uninterested in listening to 60 percent of the CUNY faculty—the adjuncts—regarding an issue that has widespread support and is crucial to our well-being.
Are there any gains in the contract?
Yes, there are gains for some (librarians, HEOs, CLIP and CUNY start instructors*, and full-time faculty, on workload reduction). BUT overall, the contract reinforces the second class status of half of the faculty—and, by failing to address this divide in our midst, it moves us backwards, not forwards.
A lower workload for full-time faculty effectively raises their compensation for each class taught. It will also be a very costly provision, requiring much funding. And yet there was no effort to significantly raise the compensation for adjunct faculty! Is this the position a progressive union should be taking?
(* Though new full-time titles have been created here, it appears that these titles are not on an equal footing with other full-time titles.)
What about health insurance?
Adjuncts gained broad health insurance coverage before the current leadership was elected sixteen years ago. It was funded out of the PSC Welfare fund though the formula for CUNY’s contribution was never adequate. The PSC had to obtain additional funding with each contract.
The PSC did conduct (and win) the fight to put adjuncts on the City health plan which alleviated the burden on the Welfare fund.
But let’s be very clear, the adjunct health insurance is not on the same basis as full-timers. Unlike every other category in the bargaining unit, adjunct faculty are not entitled to health insurance into retirement. Adjuncts must also pay a significantly higher premium for family coverage. For the least expensive plan (as of before July 1, 2016), adjuncts must pay $850 per month while full-timers pay less than $300. And there are other differences.
The PSC warns, “Vote ‘yes’, or get nothing!” We reply, “We are tired of empty promises.” Vote “No” and send the PSC back to the bargaining table. CUNY faculty should unite to fight for true equity!
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