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.

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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”

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?

Continue reading “No Compromises: The PSC Must Fight for $7K or Strike!”

7K or Strike Resolution Passes at Queens College

reposted from our comrades at Queens Adjuncts Unite

At the Queens College chapter meeting of the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, a vote was held on a resolution in support of going on strike if CUNY does not agree at the bargaining table to pay adjunct faculty $7k per course minimum. Current starting pay is less than half of that amount, with many adjuncts teaching a full-time load for poverty wages of roughly $20k a year. Annual percentage raises won in prior contracts have only increased the salary gap between the lowest- and highest-paid faculty members.

The resolution sparked a lively discussion after PSC Vice President for Senior Colleges Penny Lewis reported on the state of the contract bargaining process and the union’s lobbying efforts to fund CUNY. At its peak, the March 20 meeting was attended by about 34 PSC members who work at Queens College. Of approximately 25 who were still there when the vote took place, 14 voted for the resolution, four voted against, and three abstained. Several people did not vote.

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