It’s called “collective” bargaining for a reason

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Everyone knows these are turbulent times for academia. Full-time positions are scarce, student debt has ballooned, and per capita funding for public education has shriveled. You could try elbowing past your colleagues to make your way in the world, but by now we all know that there won’t be room at the top for even the most ruthless among us. The other option is to see these issues as related and unite to transform our working conditions, and in the process reimagine what a university could look like when faculty, students and staff come together to reject the austerity of the administration and the state.

Collective bargaining, when backed by broad-based support, can compel such a transformation. Under the current New Caucus leadership, most PSC members have no control over who bargains or what they bargain for, and almost none of us have any idea what happens behind the scenes. The PSC’s bargaining team is mostly made up of full-timers representing full-timer interests, even though adjuncts form the majority of the union. And while the New Caucus leadership likes to performatively solicit suggestions from its membership about contract demands, they are not held accountable for following through on pressing most of these demands. And so they don’t.

As we approach a new contract fight, the New Caucus slate at the Graduate Center wants you to vote them back into power by advertising the contract demand of $7k per course for adjuncts (which many in the CUNY Struggle caucus have been pushing for years!). Yet they are prepared to make the same mistake that sold out the adjuncts last time: giving all their power over to the PSC leadership, while keeping the vast majority of our union out of the loop. Indeed, they do not support making bargaining sessions open, so that everyone in the CUNY community can know what’s going on behind closed doors. They have also refused to support efforts to make the bargaining team proportionally representative of the bargaining unit, which would dramatically increase the number of adjuncts present at the negotiating table. Without these basic democratic reforms to hold the PSC leadership accountable, it is very unlikely that the next contract negotiation will yield anything different than what we’ve gotten already: a contract negotiated in secret that yields below-inflation flat-rate raises, yet again increasing the gulf between adjunct (and graduate assistant), and full-time pay. This is not a reform. This is the status quo, and it has failed us .

When the bargaining for our next contract begins, the CUNY Struggle Caucus demands all contract negotiations be open to all members of the CUNY community. We reject the idea that bargaining requires ‘experts’ that must operate in secret. We think that demands should be made at the bargaining table and backed up in the street. We also want the bargaining team to reflect the bargaining unit, through proportional representation, empowering adjunct and graduate assistant leaders to make their demands in the room, rather than be continually represented by full-timers who claim to know what’s best (and what’s possible) for them.

Further, we demand that key CUNY grievances like diversity in hiring and admissions, the quality of CUNY’s facilities, class size, accessibility issues, tuition remission, and yes – $7k for adjuncts – should be on the table in these negotiations. Indeed, collective bargaining is not just about bread and butter issues: as a union, we can put forward a broad social justice agenda that includes enforcing CUNY as a sanctuary campus, ensuring recourse in cases of sexual harassment, etc. Nothing is off the table until the union takes it off the table. Whereas the New Caucus has understood bargaining in a very narrow way, CUNY Struggle sees bargaining as a vehicle for expressing the demands of members as a collectivity. And that is why if elected, we will mount a campaign to challenge the Taylor Law, which was designed to put our union and others like it in exactly the position we are in — isolated, dependent on elected officials, and stripped of its only real weapon.

In other words, collective bargaining is about more than sending in your most experienced and savvy negotiator and trusting they do their best: it’s about ensuring that that the team of negotiators speak at the behest of “the collective,” not just on their behalf. This can only be achieved by mobilizing our members and forging ties with other unions, with our students and with the working families of New York City.

Transparency, proportional representation, a broad-based social justice bargaining agenda, and a renewed CUNY movement built on the model of horizontalism are not simply abstract principles or slogans to us, they are a practical necessity, and the difference between winning or continuing to lose. These are the ingredients of an invigorated strategy which will enfranchise thousands of members in our union to participate and to contribute their perspectives and power to the contract struggle, and beyond.

We demand a change in how we fight and what we fight for. The CUNY Struggle Caucus is challenging the status quo.


Meet the CUNY Struggle Caucus!

A CUNY Struggle caucus slate is running in the Graduate Center chapter election, and one CS caucus member is running solo in the Hunter chapter election. Meet the candidates!

Graduate Center slate:

Erin, vice-chair & alternate delegate


Erin is a third-year PhD student in History at the GC and teaches American History at Brooklyn College, where she also organizes with adjuncts. Her work focuses on US banking and finance in the late 20th century. She is an international student, a Doctoral Students’ Council representative, a PSC shop steward and a peer mentor in her department. She is an editor of and a co-author of CUNY at the Crossroads: A History of the Mess We’re In and How to Get Out of It


Andrew Anastasi, delegate

IMG_5152-1Andrew is a second-year PhD student in Sociology at the Graduate Center and teaches social theory at Queens College. He is also a member of the Viewpoint Magazine editorial collective. Before graduate school he worked in D.C. public high schools and supported youth-led campaigns to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.


Jarrod Shanahan, delegate

IMG_5961-2Jarrod (Environmental Psychology) is an activist-scholar, author, essayist, zinester, and political agitator. Jarrod has published over a dozen literary and political zines, co-edits the creative nonfiction journal Hard Crackers, and is a member of the Insurgent Notes collective. Jarrod has also published over two dozen essays and articles, translated into at least four languages, in venues including Vice, The New Inquiry, and Gothamist. Maximum Rocknroll called Jarrod’s “Satan Was So Over it” zine “witty, well executed, and still very punk” and The Industrial Worker called Jarrod’s novella It’s a Tough Economy! “a commendable contribution toward what working class literature could and should aspire.” Jarrod is a founding member of CUNY Struggle.


Chris Natoli, delegate

unnamed-1Chris is a second-year graduate assistant in the math department, an adjunct lecturer at Hunter College, and the PSC shop steward in the Graduate Center’s math department. He cares about labor, democratic unionism, anti-gentrification and housing struggles in NYC, and equal access to free quality education. In college he was involved in organizing education enrichment programs for high school students on the South Side of Chicago.


Shelley Buchbinder, delegate

Me outsideShelley is a PhD candidate in environmental psychology. She teaches in urban studies at Queens College courses including Political Economy of Food and Trashing the Global City. Her dissertation focuses on economically restructured small places, contracted social services, and training as dispossession. Previously she worked for contracted nonprofits focusing on housing, training, and informal education.


Jakob Schneider, delegate

Schneider_headJakob Schneider is a second-year doctoral student in the Environmental Psychology program. He teaches at Hunter College in the Urban Policy and Planning Department, and is a research associate at the Housing Environments Research Group at the Graduate Center. At present, he is conducting research in Chicago with a group that is employing a movement-based strategy to protect residents from eviction and reclaim bank-owned abandoned properties to provide housing to homeless families on the city’s South Side.


Wilson Sherwin, delegate


Wilson Sherwin is a PhD candidate in sociology. Her dissertation focuses on unemployment, social movements and welfare. She currently teaches at the Murphy Institute and has also taught courses at Brooklyn College, Queens College and Hunter College. She has previously worked as a freelance writer, documentary film producer, translator, and an electrician . Born and raised in New York City she is a proud product of the New York City Public School system.


Jeremy Randall, delegate

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 6.08.09 PMJeremy Randall is a PhD candidate in history. His dissertation focuses on the intersections of leftist political thought and culture during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). He currently serves as the Officer for Library and Technology for the Doctoral Students’ Council and is one of the program representative’s for history and has previously been an adjunct instructor at John Jay College. Currently he is a WAC fellow at Hunter College.


Amelia Fortunato, delegate

IMG_4122Amelia is a Doctoral Fellow in Sociology at the GC whose research focuses on the intersection of race and class in the American Labor Movement. After spending four years as a union organizer with Unite Here in Chicago, her most recent project looks at unions’ responses to the movement for black lives, examining actions taken by unions since 2014 to address anti-black racism as an issue that both impacts working class people’s lives broadly and plagues unions internally. Amelia lives in Brooklyn and teaches Sociology at John Jay College. She is an active member of the New York chapter of SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice).


Nicholas Glastonbury

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 6.10.08 PMNicholas Glastonbury is a PhD student in cultural anthropology at the Graduate Center and an instructor in the anthropology department at Hunter College. His dissertation research focuses on Kurdish-language radio broadcast infrastructures during the Cold War. He works as a freelance literary translator and currently serves as a co-editor of the Turkey Page for the e-zine Jadaliyya.

Running solo in the Hunter chapter election:

Andy Battle, alternate delegate

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Andy Battle is a PhD candidate in the History Department whose research focuses on how and why New York City became deindustrialized. He is also an adjunct who teaches US History to hundreds of students each year at Hunter College. He is an editor of and co-author of CUNY at the Crossroads: A History of the Mess We’re In and How to Get Out of It. Movement experience includes anti-police, anti-prison, and anti-gentrification work. In the real world he has worked as a book publicist, furniture mover, barista, shoe salesman, golf caddie, and a bunch of other jobs he can’t or won’t remember. He believes in democracy, militancy, and putting the “movement” back in labor movement.

Sean M. Kennedy was running as chair on the GC slate, but he has stepped down.

The CUNY Struggle Caucus is Challenging the Status Quo

The Graduate Center chapter of the PSC is holding an election this April, and the CUNY Struggle Caucus is challenging the status quo.

Our union has been controlled by the same caucus, the New Caucus, for 17 years. We are running a full slate against the New Caucus at the Graduate Center. Vote for us, and together we’ll transform the PSC and prepare for the fight ahead.

We stand for:

  • A broad social justice bargaining agenda
  • Democratic control of the union & university
  • Prioritizing graduate student and adjunct issues

Trump is threatening the very existence of public education, as well as the safety of many people in the CUNY system, our loved ones, and our neighbors. If you’re feeling scared, lost & alone, and have vowed to fight but aren’t sure where to start, get involved with your union, the PSC.

Democratically run unions help workers (that’s you!) secure better working conditions, and by virtue of bringing people together in struggle, they can form the basis for broader social movements.

The PSC is currently run in an undemocratic way, which is bad in its own right. But in the current political climate, it also makes us vulnerable to the impending assault on public sector unions. The longtime central leadership consists of a small group of people who have decided to double down on their losing strategy (begging politicians to give CUNY more $) rather than reckon with the gravity of the situation and build rank and file power. Under their leadership the salary gap between adjunct and tenured profs has widened (with adjuncts still making less than 30k working full-time), and both tuition and class sizes have gone up.