Editorials

Even with a strike, CUNY is already out

The Professional Staff Congress announced last month the inevitable—authorizing use of the strike.

Why inevitable? Because five years without a contract is unforgivable. How can anyone expect the union not to use the strike?

A strike, at this point, does not seem likely. Indeed, Barbara Bowen, president of the PSC, stressed the union is not seeking to strike. Rather, the decision is to show CUNY they mean business if no offer is given.

CUNY, time and time again, could have decided to end the issue with an offer. Just one offer. But not one was given under Chancellor James Milliken’s tenure.

We understand the political aspects of this. The state is reducing funding to CUNY. CUNY is getting desperate and using tuition from students to fill some of the gap. In turn, administrators don’t have enough money to provide high salaries to professors and staff relative to other colleges.

This may be a consequence of neoliberalism, as author William Deresiewicz argued in the September 2015 issue of Harper’s Magazine. In fact, higher education’s purpose “in a neoliberal age is to produce producers,” referring to students.

But what does neoliberalism mean for professors?

“All this explains a new kind of unhappiness I sense among professors. There are a lot of things about being an academic that basically suck: the committee work, the petty politics, the endless slog for tenure and promotion, the relentless status competition. What makes it all worthwhile, for many people, is the vigorous intellectual dialogue you get to have with vibrant young minds. That kind of contact is becoming unusual,” Deresiewicz writes.

This is important as the same exists at all CUNY schools. Professors work less than the minimum wage and costs keep rising. They are overworked, stressed and demoralized without a new contract. Basically it sucks.

But not all is lost. Professors and staff are saying no more to CUNY’s lack of a contract. They are protesting, gathering allies to join the fight and threatening to strike.

From 1970 to 1973, CUNY did not offer a contract to its professors and staff. PSC members authorized use of a strike in response. Here’s the best part—CUNY caved and the union won.

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