In a move that portends badly for CUNY faculty, especially the growing corps of adjuncts battling for a living wage in the form of a $7,000 per course minimum, the governor and his appointees at SUNY, with the collusion of leaders of the so-called union there, have successfully held the line on wages, guaranteeing that the highest starting salary for any adjunct in the SUNY system will rise to a mere $3,750 per course in Fall 2022, the last year of the just-inked deal.
Here is how the pay raises break down. Full-time faculty will receive six two-percent raises—two of these will be retroactive for the years 2016 and 2017, when SUNY faculty worked without a contract (and during which time they have now effectively extended to the state an interest-free loan). They will then receive a two-percent raise each year through Fall 2021. These raises will not keep pace with the present rate of inflation, which stands at 2.46%—meaning it is possible United University Professions (UUP) leaders have negotiated an effective pay cut for their full-time faculty. Their only chance to break inflation will come in the form of a pool established for “discretionary” raises—the discretion belonging to management.
UUP leadership has bragged that the deal establishes for the first time per course minimums for contingent faculty. And interestingly, the contract eschews the across-the board percentage raises featured in recent PSC contracts, which actually widen the inequality in pay between contingent and full-time faculty. Unfortunately, the minimums themselves are so low that a ten-percent raise in the first year of the contract means a mere $250 increase per course—peanuts in a state where the cost of living well outstrips the national average. It reminds one of the old Billy Preston song: “Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’.” Billy couldn’t have known how right he was.
Here is a breakdown of the scheduled raises for contingent faculty at SUNY:
The negotiated raises are a big step back from the $5,000 per course minimum UUP leaders were throwing around as recently as last year. And they pale in comparison to the PSC’s $7,000 per course demand for adjuncts in ongoing contract negotiations. Perhaps this explains why UUP leaders helped torpedo a PSC resolution supporting the $7,000 demand at the recent New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) assembly, prompting PSC delegates to walk out.
Recent stories about the governor’s purported embrace of unions are clearly exaggerated. Governor Cuomo, who in 2014 threatened to “break” the New York City teachers union, is apparently satisfied with his handiwork at SUNY. “I am grateful for the collaboration that helped make this agreement possible and look forward to UUP’s growth and success for years to come,” he said in a statement.
Collaboration, indeed. Look for the governor and CUNY management to cite this stinker as a benchmark—a reason why CUNY adjuncts can’t get a living wage.