The Professional Staff Congress (PSC) started negotiating collective bargaining agreements for CUNY staff in 2000, but the most recent fight for higher adjunct professor salaries has been an uphill battle since 2017.
The PSC is a local labor union that represents 30,000 CUNY staff members. The union fights for the protection and livelihood of its members, standing up to CUNY when it fails to cater to its staff’s professional needs. Through grievance arbitration, a process that allows for the final settlement of a dispute between an employer and its unionized employees, involvement in political matters, and the advocacy of special benefits provided to its members, the PSC participates in all aspects that affect CUNY employees.
The PSC supports public education and believes that there is no better indicator of the institution’s standards than the treatment of its staff. Right now, the PSC’s bargaining team is campaigning for its 11,000 adjuncts.
CUNY management seems to think the current adjunct pay is sufficient, but a PSC survey conducted last spring suggested that the CUNY staff feels otherwise. Although the PSC has made strides with its fight for adjuncts in areas such as health insurance and paid office hours, it failed to pay adjuncts higher salaries. The reason for such difficulty in reaching this goal might be that both the local governments and New York State have to accept any money related proposals, but both Albany and City Hall have limited any union like the PSC to declare any inflation-level increases.
Even with this restriction, the PSC has not yet given up. They recently gave an update on Aug. 27, 2019, about a new contract they are working on which will demand that all adjuncts be paid $7,000 per 3-credit course. The PSC is convinced that their request is more likely to be heard, given that New York State recently passed a piece of legislation raising the minimum wage. It seems like the best time to initiate a conversation about the exploitation of CUNY’S adjuncts because of the clear efforts New York has been making to amend its long history of wage injustice. For this contract to be officialized, the union’s Executive Council and Delegate Assembly must convene and bilaterally agree upon it, and then show it to its general members for approval. Once both parties have given the green light, the PSC will move forward.
It is possible that a strike will be organized during internal negotiations about the PSC’s new contract proposal. The union has no hesitation calling on its members to take action if it places much-needed pressure at a critical moment during negotiations. In the past, adjuncts have been quick to vocalize anger against wage inequality, so there is no doubt that if the fight for fair pay slows down, they will be bold enough to take a final stand.