This year, the PSC has prioritized winning $ 7,000 as the minimum salary for anyone teaching a three hour course. Over the years, many full-time faculty wonder why the PSC has put so much time and energy into championing the demands of adjunct faculty. Many believe that gains, like $7K/course for part-timers come at the expense of salary increases for the full-timers.
This argument is wrong—the existence of a low-cost part-time faculty undermines the salaries of full-time faculty.
Unions exist to stop the destructive competition among employees which allows employers to cut wages, increase work load and and generally degrade the conditions of labor. In the past forty years, corporate and government employers’ have created multi-“tiered” workforces—workers doing the same work who are paid lower wages. The result is a downward spiral of wages for all employees.
The growth of a low wage part-time faculty is simply higher education’s version of the “two-tier” workforce. Low salaries for adjuncts mean lower salaries for all of us. It is no accident that CUNY has both one of the highest percentages of underpaid adjuncts and some of the lowest salaries for public sector full-time faculty. Winning $7K/course puts a floor on salaries, and gives CUNY an incentive to hire more full-time, tenure-track, rather than part-time and contingent, faculty.
Winning $7K will require all of us—full-timers and part-timers—to mobilize over the coming months. We all need show up at demonstrations for $7K and vote at our chapter meetings for resolutions supporting a strike if CUNY doesn’t offer $7K at the bargaining table.
An earlier version appeared in the BMCC faculty newsletter The Gadfly.
The red wave has come to New York City! Earlier this week, rank-and-file workers and students from across the CUNY system descended on Wall Street to deliver a clear message: $7k or strike! For the newcomer, this means the CUNY community is demanding a $7k per course minimum wage for CUNY adjuncts in the coming union contract, and if we don’t get it, we’re ready to shut it down!
It was a beautiful sight. The sterile sarcophagi of Wall Street echoed with chants of “7k or strike!“ and “Education is a right; strike strike strike!” CUNY workers from across titles joined with students and other working class New Yorkers to affirm our shared commitment to do whatever it takes to win $7k the coming contract. This was nothing short of a dress rehearsal for a CUNY-wide strike of workers and students, which we must prepare for in case the PSC fails to win $7k at the bargaining table. And just like the red wave that is remaking teachers’ organizing all across the US, the movement at CUNY will be led from the bottom-up, by the people with the most on the line! It’s no coincidence that the small handful of PSC members who oppose the message of 7k or Strike!all seem to hold some elected office.
Thanks to the state Freedom of Information Law, the New York Times has obtained “the lobbying emails Cuomo fought hard to keep secret.” Among the revelations is that the Cuomo administration demands total subordination from public university trustees. In an email to Jim Malatras, a top Cuomo administration official, now-disgraced lobbyist Todd Howe explained the governor’s expectations with regard to trustees.
Howe sought to remind board members that “The Board and the Chamber” (i.e. the Governor’s office) “are one and the same.” A dissenting trustee should know that “the governor and you expect him to carry the chamber’s water, and if he can’t do that day to day, he should rethink his commitment, and you’ll work with him to find a diplomatic way to move off the board.” Any break with the “family” headed by the governor is, in Howe’s words, “totally unacceptable.”
For those of us who care about CUNY, this news would be another drop in the putrid sea that is the Cuomo administration, if it weren’t for the ongoing contract negotiations between the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), CUNY administration, and our ultimate boss, the governor. The most important demand in these negotiations is a $7,000 per course minimum salary for the adjuncts who teach over half of all classes at CUNY.
It is a safe bet that the austerity-minded Cuomo does not intend to double the salaries of thousands of CUNY adjuncts, even if that is the only way for them to approach a modicum of dignity in their working lives. Yet a strategy emerging from an influential corner of the PSC purports to enlist the Board of Trustees and the college presidents, whom the Board selects and oversees, in a campaign to convince state lawmakers to buck the governor’s wishes and carve out a chunk of money in the state budget to fund the $7K demand.
But given this airtight embrace between the governor and trustees, is there any reason to expect they should suddenly want to flip on their patron? This latest news suggests that if $7K is to become a reality in this contract, it may take more than moral appeals.
The Janus v. AFSCME decision has come down this morning. As expected, the right wing of the Supreme Court, bolstered by Donald Trump’s appointment of Neil Gorsuch, has delivered a serious blow to public-sector unions like the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) by outlawing the agency fee on spurious First Amendment grounds.
What does Janus mean? As Celine McNicholas explains in thisvideo, under current law unions must represent—in other words, spend money to defend—all workers in a bargaining unit, regardless of whether or not they choose to join the union. In a 1977 decision called Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the US Supreme Court ruled that unions may charge non-members a fee to help cover these costs and to prevent non-members from “free riding,” or reaping the benefits of union membership while allowing their colleagues to pick up the tab. There is no question that non-members benefit from the union’s efforts on their behalf—indeed, unions raise wages not only for those covered by their agreements, but inwholly non-unionized sectors as well.
In a move that portends badly for CUNY faculty, especially the growing corps of adjuncts battling for a living wage in the form of a $7,000 per course minimum, the governor and his appointees at SUNY, with the collusion of leaders of the so-called union there, have successfully held the line on wages, guaranteeing that the highest starting salary for any adjunct in the SUNY system will rise to a mere $3,750 per course in Fall 2022, the last year of the just-inked deal.
Here is how the pay raises break down. Full-time faculty will receive six two-percent raises—two of these will be retroactive for the years 2016 and 2017, when SUNY faculty worked without a contract (and during which time they have now effectively extended to the state an interest-free loan). They will then receive a two-percent raise each year through Fall 2021. These raises will not keep pace with the present rate of inflation, which stands at 2.46%—meaning it is possible United University Professions (UUP) leaders have negotiated an effective pay cut for their full-time faculty. Their only chance to break inflation will come in the form of a pool established for “discretionary” raises—the discretion belonging to management. Continue reading “SUNY UUP Leaders Sell Out CUNY Faculty on Adjunct Wages”
On June 2nd, members of CUNY Struggle participated in a panel at this year’s Left Forum called “Rank-and-File Academic Organizing: Turning the Tide Against Austerity.” The panel, moderated by CUNY Struggle’s Jarrod Shanahan, featured rank-and-file organizers from New York City and beyond, including Sofya Aptekar (Faculty Staff Union, UMass-Boston), Camila Vergara (Graduate Workers of Columbia), Sonam Singh (Barnard Contingent Faculty) and Andy Battle (PSC-CUNY, CUNY Struggle). Continue reading “Academic Organizing: The Rank and File Perspective”
On May 16, 2018, members of CUNY Struggle presented the $7K or Strike resolution that passed at the Graduate Center to members of the Hunter College chapter of the PSC. The basic idea of the resolution is that we back up our central demand—that CUNY adjuncts, who teach a majority of courses at the university, be paid a living wage in the form of $7,000 per course—by being willing to go out on strike if it is not met by the university. We believe that adjunctification is at the center of the crises engulfing the university and that addressing it is in the interest of all faculty, even those who have been lucky enough to escape being caught in its grips. Moreover, we believe that past experience has shown that pressure short of direct action has little effect towards achieving our just demands, which are made not only in our own interests, but in those of the students to whom we have devoted our teaching lives. We were inspired by the example of teachers across the country and around the world, who are mounting a wave of strike actions that demonstrate and deploy the power we have as working people to shape education for the better.
In terms of the workforce, Hunter is a somewhat different landscape than the Graduate Center. The Graduate Center boasts a concentration of part time faculty, whether they be graduate assistants or students working as adjuncts trying to fund their degrees. It also has tenure-line faculty who are connected to adjuncts in the sense that many of their students and advisees do this kind of work. The Graduate Center also has a concentration of militants, many of whom are living and studying not only the adjunctification crisis but the history of working-class radicalism and social movements in the US and beyond. Hunter, on the other hand, has significant numbers of tenure-line faculty who can remain aloof to the adjunct struggle as long as the consequences for their individual lives and careers remain diffuse enough for them to fail to connect the dots between adjunctification, or the creation of a huge, highly-exploited and highly-vulnerable workforce, and the precipitous decrease in overall faculty power vis-à-vis administration about which so many of them rightly complain. Their position, like that of PSC leaders who have presided over declining real wages, worsening conditions, and deepened precarity, will become less tenable the longer we permit the adjunct crisis to define our work at the university. Continue reading “$7K or Strike Resolution Presented at Hunter College”