This July, the membership of the PSC will be voting on a proposed contract, known as the memorandum of agreement (MOA). The membership has the power to decide whether it will accept the offer. We urge a NO vote for the following reasons.
1. Most fundamentally: the MOA is not a pay raise in real terms.
The proposed contract doesn’t keep up with inflation or the cost of living in New York. It would grant an increase of 10.4% for a period during which inflation has increased by at least 12% nationwide (and The Economist reports that the cost of living in New York has increased by 23% in the past 5 years!). This is effectively a pay cut and on its own makes this a very bad contract indeed. In short, while salaries will increase in nominal terms, they will fall in real terms because of inflation.
2. The proposed contract does nothing to address the inequity of the two-tier system.
An across the board percentage raise such as has been proposed in the MOA widens the gap between full-timers and adjuncts, who are more than half of CUNY faculty and who earn poverty wages. Adjuncts will now make approximately $3,300 per course, a far cry from the $5,000-$7,500 per course that has been repeatedly demanded by adjuncts as part of a fair contract. That the PSC has chosen to allocate the funds in such a blatantly inegalitarian way should be unacceptable to all members, even those who it benefits. To add insult to injury, even the signing bonuses will be larger for full timers than for adjuncts. So much for the PSC being committed to “moving toward adjunct salary parity.” Read more here about the nefarious effects of the two-tier system and how a NO vote is a vote to abolish it.
3. The new multi-year appointments for adjuncts don’t take into account seniority.
Time and again, adjuncts have sought job security through the creation of long-term appointments based on seniority. The proposed policy would rely on recent and continuous employment, which disqualifies many long-time adjuncts, for example if they have taken a semester off in the past few years. Voting no on this proposal will send the PSC leadership back to the drafting table and force them to reckon with actual adjunct demands for job security.
4. Graduate students may not receive retroactive pay or salary increases.
In the past, the CUNY Graduate Center has withheld contractual step increases to graduate assistants by cutting their fellowship stipends as wages rose. The GC PSC chapter has acknowledged that there is no language in the contract that rules this practice out.
5. HEO gains are not secure either.
HEOs are being offered the prospect of $2500 raises but these will be adjudicated by supervisors operating under austerity budgets. In other words, it may well turn out that there is “no money” for these raises because they are discretionary, not automatic. Thus, one of biggest draws of this contract for HEOs is in fact merely the promise of a raise rather than a contractually obligated pay increase.
6. The harmful 9-6 rule is present in the proposed contract.
Adjuncts have long demanded the relaxation of the so-called 9-6 rule, which prevents part-time faculty from working more than 9 credit-hours at one campus and 6 credit-hours at another campus per semester. This makes it impossible for adjuncts to work full-time without commuting to at least two locations (and makes it logistically difficult to be assigned courses every semester). Management would gladly repeal this rule, but it is the PSC that has repeatedly upheld it — including in this proposed contract — arguing it protects against the “adjunctification” of faculty. But the reality is that faculty is already composed majoritarily of adjuncts. The responsibility of the PSC should be to protect adjuncts from falling further into poverty. Relaxing the 9-6 would drastically increase adjuncts’ quality of life and its absence from the current proposed contract is another way the leadership has betrayed adjunct demands to “protect” full-timers.
Bonus 7. The case for ratifying a bad contract doesn’t make any sense.
No one is satisfied with the contract proposal, everyone agrees it is below what would constitute a fair contract. Yet the PSC leadership and others in the CUNY community have nevertheless urged members to ratify. Their arguments basically come down to “this is the best we could do this time” and “we’ll get them next time.” But this argument is tautological. It is only if we ratify the contract that it becomes the best we could do. If we vote NO, we force our union leadership, CUNY management and the folks in Albany to come back to the bargaining table with the knowledge that the rank-and-file of the PSC will not accept an insulting contract. “Getting them next time” is the line the leadership has fed members for over a decade and has not been successful in securing a fair contract, as evidenced by this weak MOA. It is up to members to push by on this flawed logic. Why get them next time when we can get them this time, by voting NO on the contract proposal.
The Adjunct Project has published an excellent rundown of 7 reasons why you should vote NO. And read more analysis here about the pathological inequities of the two-tier system that the proposed contract would perpetuate and intensify, and about how we owe it to ourselves and to each other to push back against decades of austerity by voting NO. We also encourage members to be skeptical of the many op-eds that have been published in mainstream publications, and which uncritically hail the new contract. For a critique of such reporting, read Ruth Wangerin’s response to the contract coverage in The Chief.