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CUNY professors and staff remain without contract after 5 years

All employees of CUNY, from professors to staff members, are still working without a contract as negotiations continue to stall.

The last contract was conceived in 2006 and lasted until 2010. CUNY officials pledged to make a deal last semester, but nothing came of it.

Francis Clark, communications director of the Professional Staff Congress, said CUNY faculty and staff need a contract in order to help both professors and students.

“CUNY is in danger of not being able to offer the rich education our students deserve. The faculty and professional staff represented by the PSC have worked for four years without a contract and five years without a contractual raise,” Clark said. “CUNY salaries, once able to attract the best professors, are now far below those of comparable public institutions.”

The PSC is a local union of the American Federation of Teachers and represents more than 25,000 faculty and staff throughout CUNY. It formed in 1972 in the midst of strikes.

At least 9,000 faculty members signed a petition earlier this year calling for a new contract immediately.
The union demands not only pay raises, but also restructured workloads for full-time faculty, a permanent paid parental leave program and other benefits.

At a CUNY board of trustees meeting on Jan. 26, PSC President Barbara Bowen told the board about the urgency of a new contract and pledged to “escalate our campaign this spring in every way necessary until a fair, progressive contract settlement is reached.”

“We doubt that any of you would work at your positions for 5 years without a raise, and you clearly did not expect a chancellor to work at the pay rate of 2009,” Bowen wrote. “Why, then, should we?”

A report from the Fiscal Policy Institute on Dec. 2 highlighted the difficulties New York City residents experience in sustaining themselves with the cost of living. A household made up of one adult and a preschooler in Queens would need $59,502 to sustain themselves, which is significantly higher than the cost of living in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island.

Adjunct professors earn $2,900 per course and are not guaranteed a job the following semester. Moreover, adjuncts account for 59 percent of the CUNY faculty yet earn nearly one-fourth less than full-time faculty, said the CUNY Adjunct Project.

CUNY Chancellor James Milliken spoke in Albany last month and emphasized the importance of support from state and city officials for contract negotiations.

“An important part of this effort, of course, involves discussions with the Governor’s office and the Mayor’s office as has been the case in the past. We hope the state, to a lesser degree the city, will provide support for this highest university priority,” Milliken said. “Being competitive for faculty and staff is essential to this university and the people it serves as well as the funding of that obligation has a great deal to do with CUNY’s ability to provide access and high quality.”

Milliken noted he would seek retroactive pay raises for professors in light of the expiration of the last contract.
Bowen, in her testimony to the state Senate’s Finance Committee and the Assembly Ways and Means Committee on Feb. 10, stressed the importance of a new contract. She said the lack of investments from CUNY led to the rise of adjuncts. Thus, there was an immediate need for a new contract.

“[They] are not the smiling faces you see in CUNY’s subway ads, but they are doing the bulk of the teaching, especially of the highest-needs students. That is no way to run a university,” Bowen said.

Brandon Jordan

Brandon is a senior majoring in Political Science and Economics with a minor in Business And Liberal Arts. He covers labor and activism at CUNY. He also likes to cook, bake, run and make puns, sometimes not in that order. You can follow him on Twitter @BrandonJ_R and email him at brandon[at]theknightnews.com.

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