No Compromises: The PSC Must Fight for $7K or Strike!

The real story of last week was not the regrettable smear lodged against the $7K or Strike campaign by a small group of union politicians. Instead, it was the PSC bargaining team’s counter-offer, issued unilaterally to CUNY with no consultation even with our Delegate Assembly. Depending on who you talk to, this offer could represent a retreat from the demand for a $7K/course adjunct minimum wage that has been a cornerstone of contract negotiations until now. Is it any wonder President Bowen took this moment to attack the activists fighting hardest for $7K?

The following statement was written by a comrade at Borough of Manhattan Community College, and distributed to members of their PSC chapter shortly after the counter-offer was announced. We welcome analysis about the meaning of this offer moving forward. We refuse to be distracted from the real issues, and we sure as hell won’t stop building a movement to win #7KorStrike.

The New Caucus and the leadership of the PSC CUNY have already begun to back away from the demand for $7K. The rank and file must say NO to this betrayal. 

Last week the New Caucus Leadership unveiled its counter-proposal to management’s first economic offer and the results are not promising. What has happened and what can we do?

The counter-offer, which includes 9.5% wage increases over the life of the four year contract may sound good to full timers and those who have not been struggling to survive on poverty adjunct wages, but the counter-proposal to double the number of paid hours per course for adjuncts in exchange for one required office hour per course is a fundamental betrayal of the demand for $7K and here’s why:

1. Rather than simply reaffirm the demand for an increase in adjunct wages equal to a minimum $7K per course, the bargaining team has cynically complicated the demand. 

Instead of asking to double adjunct wages per hour, (the demand we all agreed to prioritize this contract) the bargaining team has now asked instead that CUNY pay the same poverty wage rate to adjuncts but double the number of hours for which they are paid. This may seem like a clever way of demonstrating how hard adjunct lecturers work. Unfortunately, it also complicates the demand in ways that seem almost designed to make the conversation about the number of hours adjuncts are paid for rather than the wages they receive per hour. Although this distinction may seem merely academic, the difference is in fact quite important. By changing the conversation from talking about wages to talking about hours, without seriously talking about a strike, the bargaining team is effectively encouraging management to offer an additional paid office hour per course as their counter-offer, a compromise that members of the bargaining team have already discussed in private and which they would no doubt try to sell to the membership as a victory.

2. The Counter-proposal not only seriously compromises the clear demand for $7K, it will actually create more work for adjuncts.

Because the counter-proposal includes an additional required office hour per course adjuncts will be forced to work up to two or three additional unpaid hours per week depending on how many classes they teach at CUNY. This means that some adjuncts will actually be making 25% less than the original simple demand for $7K. For a three credit course, for instance, an adjunct would have to work four required hours; at $6,400 per course, this would equal $1,600 per required hour of work. By contrast, under the original demand, a three credit course at $7K would equal $2,333 per required hour of work. Furthermore, these hours, as the counter-proposal makes clear may be used by the administration for required professional development, training, etc, further depriving adjuncts of hours that they could be preparing courses or spending with their students, a major reason why increasing adjunct wages matters.

3. The counter-proposal leaves non-teaching adjuncts out in the cold.

The counter-proposal not only fails to meet the demand for $7K, it does nothing to raise the wages for non-teaching adjuncts, effectively creating another tier of poverty wage workers, whom the administration will take advantage of in an effort to continue to balance its budgets on the backs of CUNY workers and students as it always has.

Only a strike can win 

The leadership will claim that this counter-proposal is the same as $7K. They will claim that this is how negotiations work. They will claim that this counter-offer validates the many unpaid hours that adjuncts work each semester, but don’t be fooled. This is the first step toward a significant reduction of the original demand for $7K. It is clear that the leadership is running scared from the prospect of a strike, which, thanks to the hard work of 7KOS activists, has gained significant momentum among the rank and file across the university.

If we really want to win $7K we, the rank and file of this union, must stand up and say no to this betrayal and demand that the bargaining team reaffirm its commitment to winning a minimum $7,000 per course (without an increase in workload) and begin the process of building for a successful strike authorization vote, and a successful strike.

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