CUNY Struggle co-organized a day of action on November 30th to mark the expiration of the PSC-CUNY contract and to demand $7k for adjuncts in the next one. And when we say the next one, we mean the next contract, not the “next time” that adjuncts have been hearing about for years!
The 30th kicked off at the CUNY Graduate Center, where members of CUNY Struggle, the Doctoral Student Council, Free CUNY, the Graduate Center Chapter of the PSC, and other student activists interrupted the GC’s busy lunch hour in the dining commons to host a speak out about the expiration of the contract and the struggle ahead. Check out this video courtesy of our comrades at Left Voice:
To kick off negotiations for the coming PSC-CUNY contract, CUNY Struggle is proud to be co-organizing this independent day of action along with Free CUNY, CUNY Workers United, CUNY DSA, Adjunct Project, and the Graduate Center chapter PSC-CUNY.
Thursday, Nov 30
* Bronx Community College, 2pm, Main Quad
* Graduate Center, 12:30-2pm, Dining Commons
* Hunter, 3pm, Hunter College West (Rally for $7k and Free Tuition!)
On November 30, PSC-CUNY’s contract expires and most CUNY teachers and staff begin working without a contract. Even though CUNY continues to pay its adjunct professors starvation wages, tuition is still climbing for students.
Join us on 3 campuses across CUNY to kick off the campaign for the next PSC-CUNY contract, demanding a $7k/class minimum salary for adjuncts and free tuition for CUNY students! Everyone is welcome: CUNY students, staff, faculty, friends, family, and neighbors.
Why are we rallying?
The last PSC-CUNY contract deepened the inequality in CUNY’s workforce, with the biggest raises going to the highest-paid faculty and staff at CUNY. Meanwhile the Board of Trustees and college presidents make six-figure salaries. The City and State could fund CUNY if they wanted to. We aren’t a priority for them because we aren’t fighting for it. If we are united, we’ll be unstoppable!
We demand a $7k minimum wage per course for adjuncts in the CUNY system — in the next PSC-CUNY contract, and not a second later. This is an issue of economic justice for the educators who teach New York City’s working class college students. We also demand free tuition for CUNY students. There’s enough wealth in New York City to make this happen if we chop from the top.
We kicked off the school year with a lively demonstration outside Governor Cuomo’s Manhattan office, and marched to CUNY Central where our message was clear: the time has come for economic justice in the CUNY system! We were joined by students who spoke of the challenges facing working class New Yorkers as tuition rises. These struggles are connected and require a united campaign to resist austerity at CUNY.
CUNY can be free again and adjuncts can make the living wage they deserve. But nobody is going to give this to us just because we make a moral argument. No politician, CUNY administrator, or NYC millionaire will take our demand for $7k and free tuition seriously until we show them how powerful we can be!
On September 26th, one hundred CUNY faculty, students, and comrades from all across the city picketed outside Governor Cuomo’s Manhattan office, and marched to CUNY Central, the headquarters of CUNY management. We wanted to send a clear message to Cuomo and CUNY management there will be no excuses this time: we demand a $7k-per-course minimum wage and meaningful job security for adjuncts in the next PSC-CUNY contract! The entire demonstration was organized by an independent coalition of PSC rank-and-filers and was co-sponsored by CUNY Struggle. Despite having done absolutely zero work to mobilize membership for the coming contract fight, PSC leadership refused to endorse this rally, attend, or even give us access to their communication apparatus to spread the word it was going on. But apparently we still managed to get the word out! And whether the Cuomo, CUNY management, or PSC leadership likes it, we’re just getting started.
We refuse to let this contract be the latest chapter in ‘A Tale of Two CUNYs’!
The contract for PSC-CUNY, the union for CUNY professors and many higher education staff, is set to expire in November. A majority of professors in the CUNY system are adjuncts, working for a mere $3,200 per course with no job security. CUNY contracts consistently distribute the vast majority of raises to the professors who already earn the most money, widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots in the CUNY system. It’s time for CUNY to give its adjunct faculty a $7k-per-course minimum wage and real job security!
CUNY can afford $7k for adjuncts in the next PSC-CUNY contract
CUNY currently spends only 5% of its $5,000,000,000 annual revenue on adjuncts’ wages – the workers who comprise over half the faculty and teach over half the classes. CUNY has the money. Raising the minimum wage for adjuncts to $7k would take only another 5% of CUNY’s revenue. Time to cough it up!
Adjuncts deserve $7k and job security, both long overdue
Adjuncts are college professors and at CUNY teach college classes for sub-minimum wage. Across the country, adjuncts are rising and demanding the wages that they deserve. The contingent faculty unions at Tufts University and Barnard College both won minimum per-course rates of at least $7,000 for the coming academic year. CUNY sets the low watermark for adjunct pay in the entire City of New York. It’s time to reverse this trend.
$7k and job security for adjuncts is moral and practical issue for everyone
Across the country, universities are increasingly relying on adjuncts to lower the wages and job security of everyone, including tenured faculty. Only by taking a stand for the bottom tier of CUNY’s workforce can we begin to buck this trend and turn the tide toward a living wage for all in the university, as well as optimal learning conditions for students.
Join our growing grassroots movement for $7k and job security… and accept no substitute!
3:30: Meet at Cuomo’s Manhattan office, 633 3rd Ave
4:30: Rally outside CUNY Central, 205 E 42nd St
With the contract expiring in November, it’s time to put pressure on our bosses to pay us a fair, living wage: $7000 per course minimum.
$7k is the only foundation on which real structural changes in adjunct working conditions can begin. It is not unrealistic: the contingent faculty unions at Tufts University and Barnard College both won minimum per-course rates of at least $7,000 for the coming academic year. CUNY can afford it too—currently it spends only 5% of its $5 bil annual revenue on adjuncts’ wages, who comprise over half the faculty and teach over half the classes.
Furthermore, we demand genuine job security in the form of a seniority system based on date of original appointment and the number of credits taught over time. Only militant, direct action can achieve both fair wages and job security.
We invite everyone in the CUNY community and NYC labor movement to struggle with us for greater investment in public higher education and for an end to the exploitation of CUNY faculty.
We are heartbroken to learn that our comrade and CUNY movement stalwart Lenny Dick has died at the age of 68. Lenny was a former public school teacher, an adjunct professor of math at Bronx Community College, and an indefatigable champion of the oppressed. He was also a lifelong radical, born into the cause in Brooklyn and never wavering throughout his nearly seven decades. After attending Columbia University, where he excelled in math, chess, poker, and militant takeovers of the school, Lenny went to work teaching the public school students of New York City. In the 1980s the New York City Department of Education stripped him of his teaching license for siding with his students in the Bronx as they walked out to protest grotesque conditions in their school. Lenny was forced to teach in private schools after that but upon retirement excitedly renewed his commitment to the working-class students of New York City, signing on to teach math to students at Bronx Community College, where he became heavily involved in trying to push the Professional Staff Congress in a more militant, activist direction.
As his friend and longtime colleague Glenn Kissack described him:
Lenny was never happier than being in the heat of battle—having rallies on his campus, marching with the PSC against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing anti-war resolutions to the AFT convention, being on the picket line with the strikers at the Stella D’Oro bakery, supporting the parents of Ramarley Graham in their fight to get a measure of justice for their teenage son who had been murdered by the NYPD, going to Hostos College to support events there. Lenny felt deeply about the plight of adjuncts, especially those who were struggling financially.
Lenny’s health became a concern for him in recent years but it didn’t slow him down politically one bit. He was too committed for that. As he told one of us recently, he was “nuts” for politics, for trying concretely to change the world in a more just direction. That was a very Lenny way of putting it and few have walked the walk like he did. Lenny was attending union meetings, organizing rallies, and planning marches and other direct actions literally until the day he died. It was like there was a fire inside of him. All of us who work for a world in which no one is left behind owe something to Lenny and the example he set in terms of unwavering commitment, clear-eyed militancy, and the affability he never failed to bring to the struggles to which he devoted his life. We will remember you, Lenny, and will continue to work for the world you foresaw.
On the morning of Monday, June 26th, MarisaHolmes — CUNY TV Broadcast Associate and NYC movements organizer — received an email from Frances Correa at CUNY Central Office with a letter attached from Sonia S. Pearson, Director of Human Resources, which informed Holmes that her appointment would end on June 30th. Holmes‘ union, District Council (DC) 37, was not notified. She was not given 30 days notice or cause for her termination.
This action by HR is in clear violation of Holmes‘ contract, and retaliation for her organizing efforts (outlined below). If this move is tolerated, it sets a precedent for how CUNY manages those who speak out.
We must not allow this silencing of dissent! We support MarisaHolmes remaining as Broadcast Associate at CUNY TV!
MarisaHolmes began working at CUNY TV as an hourly Broadcast Associate in the Fall of 2013. She works a regular 32 hour a week shift, which falls just below the full-time mark, and is considered part-time. Her work consists of producing, shooting, and editing video content for television and web distribution, with a focus on ethnic and immigrant communities in NYC.
Holmes is represented by DC 37, and has been an active union member and organizer. She helped members to address budget transparency, hour reductions, benefits, and diversity in hiring practices and promotions. Through her organizing efforts, dozens of workers received increases to their base pay, changes of title, expansion of benefits, and support for pay equity. Holmes also built cross-union ties between DC 37 and the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) in the process. DC 37 was so impressed by her efforts that they featured her on the cover of the public employee press.
Just over a hundred days after Trump’s inauguration, this year’s May Day is unmistakably different from the last. This is especially true at the Professional Staff Congress, which might be financially debilitated by nationwide “right-to-work” before next May Day and where over half the bargaining unit is part of the growing precariat. And this is especially true at CUNY, where students are predominantly working-class and people of color, and over a third are immigrants—categories that will remain in Trump’s crosshairs for the next four years. Given the union’s purported solidarity with its students, its potential to lead a radical struggle uniting student issues with faculty issues with staff issues, and its own threatened existence, one would expect the PSC to use the revitalization of May Day as an opportunity for militant direct action.
Although the gravity of the times is reason enough for militancy in the PSC, a single day of disruptive direct action could also have benefited our union in the long term. Members of the rank-and-file, old and young, know that adjuncts won’t win $7000 per course in the near future without a strike. A May Day action that brushes up against the Taylor Law, which prohibits public-sector strikes in New York State, would be taking a small risk in exchange for a trial run of a real strike. Trust falls like one-day actions are necessary to train rank-and-file members as organizers and build solidarity within our union, thus preparing us for the greater risk of a future strike. Furthermore, joining other unions in the streets—many of which consist of undocumented immigrants taking even bigger risks than breaking the Taylor Law— would build ties across the city and help shift the balance of class forces against capitalists and their cronies in City Hall and Albany.
Yet the PSC’s May Day plans fell far short of militancy. Although alleging to join the call by academics nationwide for a “moratorium on university operations”, which called for “cancel[ing] classes, clos[ing] offices, and postpon[ing] maintenance”, the PSC leadership instead asked instructors with Monday classes to teach special lessons about Trump’s policies. Furthermore, the leadership did little to materially support this “action”: it sent a few emails, distributed flyers at chapter meetings, and created a shared Google Drive folder in mid-April, where only four PSC members uploaded only nineteen readings that the 20,000 instructors at CUNY could use to “teach Trump”. The PSC leadership also called for a contingent at the Foley Square rally on May Day, where bureaucratic unions have gathered on past May Days to separate themselves from immigrant workers and socialist groups at Union Square.
It is perhaps even more disappointing that, despite the gravity and potential of this year’s May Day, the official PSC (in)action was decided without any input from the rank-and-file, from chapters, or even from the Delegate Assembly (the union’s “principal governing body”), nevermind through democratic channels. Presumably, the decision was made by the Executive Council or an even smaller circle orbiting PSC president Barbara Bowen. When the lack of material solidarity with more vulnerable but braver unions, like those consisting of immigrant workers, was criticized from the floor of the April Delegate Assembly meeting, the leadership responded that a contingent at the Foley Square rally constituted solidarity. Given the stubborn centralization of power in the PSC, one shouldn’t be surprised by the lack of political imagination that went into the PSC’s plans.
Rank-and-file activists in the Graduate Center chapter, including many in CUNY Struggle, realized the PSC’s milquetoast plans would only get soggier, so in late March we started planning a different action at the GC within the chapter’s Solidarity Committee. We advertised and held a people’s assembly to collectively decide what the GC chapter’s May Day action could look like, which brought over a dozen chapter members, including five new faces. Notably missing were any members of the New Caucus—despite the fact that their talk of active, dynamic chapters and their pretenses of solidarity, militancy, and progressivism would lead one to think that May Day would be a top priority. After a few weeks of organizing characterized by a consistent lack of material support from the chapter leadership (even the food at planning meetings was provided with non-union funds), we ultimately resolved to organize a walk-out from the GC to the Immigrant Worker Justice march, to circulate a GC-wide petition endorsing the call for an actual moratorium on university operations, and to present these plans at the GC chapter meeting in late April for a vote of formal support.
Unfortunately, the plans devised and worked on by the Solidarity Committee never received formal support. At the chapter meeting, representatives of the Solidarity Committee presented and wrote on a chalkboard a potential resolution that the chapter endorse the moratorium on university operations, urge chapter members to walk out and join the Immigrant Worker Justice march, and call on the GC president to excuse students and faculty from May Day actions. The resolution was tabled until the end of the meeting, following a de facto filibuster by a long series of presentations that could easily have been printed and read on one’s own time. Ten minutes before the meeting was supposed to end, one member involved in May Day planning interrupted the presentations to return to discussing the proposed resolution and eventually vote. Attendees expressed hesitations about the Taylor Law and noted that the chapter cannot endorse a resolution without quorum, which we didn’t meet, so the resolution was edited accordingly: mentions of the GC chapter were replaced and the walk-out was recast as a student strike, which avoids the Taylor Law. The deliberation turned chaotic, and fifteen minutes after the meeting was supposed to end, the chapter chair refused to call a vote and ultimately walked out of the meeting.
In short, the chapter leadership’s response to its own Solidarity Committee’s request that the chapter meeting vote on plans that rank-and-file members had been working on for a month was simply “no”. The watered down resolution could have helped mobilize GC students and strengthen the GC contingent on May Day, in addition to demonstrating that chapters could outpace the progressivism of the union-wide leadership. Furthermore, holding a vote at a chapter meeting, even if it only represents the workers assembled at the chapter meeting, could have set a precedent for bottom-up democratic decision-making—something that, to my knowledge, never happens in any chapter of the PSC. Instead, the opposite precedent was set: attempts at democratic participation that break from the leadership’s prepared remarks and pre-made decisions will continue to face resistance.
Despite these obstructions to democratic decision-making, over a dozen GC students (notably, none in the New Caucus) walked out on May Day and joined the Immigrant Worker Justice rally, meeting up with several more on the subsequent march. Some of us regrouped later in the afternoon at the Union Square demonstration, which—after an initial collision with the police who arrested a few dozen protesters who tried to take the streets—marched south to Foley Square. When we arrived at 7:30, the official PSC contingent had already dissolved, after dumping their expensive signs in the trash. Judging by photos posted later on social media, several dozen PSC members attended the rally at Foley Square, including members of the GC chapter leadership. Although the official contingent was larger than ours farther north, we question the utility of joining large bureaucratic unions at what amounted to a well-financed, musical rally for the reelection of Bill de Blasio, whose thugs were meanwhile arresting nonviolent protesters at Union Square (possibly including some of our own students from the Hunter Internationalist Club). We can now say that the PSC’s recent undemocratic endorsement of de Blasio ended up setting the precedent for the PSC’s May Day plans a few months later.
Nonetheless, the rank-and-file resistance to the New Caucus’s timid incrementalism is growing, not only at the GC. Contingents from BMCC, Hunter, Lehman, and LaGuardia CC, uniting both students and faculty, converged at Union Square, some in tandem with socialist groups like Socialist Alternative, the Internationalist Group, and Democratic Socialists of America. This year’s May Day revealed ever more clearly the capacity and need for two concomitant strategies: first, horizontal organizing and actions without the permission of the PSC leadership and, second, persistent demands for a democratic union, genuine material solidarity with our students and the working class, and a break from electoralism and incrementalism.