October 22, 2014
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—CUNY professors have been teaching and researching without a contract since October 2010. That’s why they rallied on Tuesday night at the Community Church of New York on East 35th Street before marching past Governor Andrew Cuomo’s offices on Third Avenue and concluding at CUNY’s Welcome Center on 42nd Street.
In the accompanying video, we interviewed Steven London and Michael Fabricant, First Vice President and Treasurer, respectively, of the Professional Staff Congress, the 25,000-member strong union that represents professors and teachers at the City University of New York.
Both London and Fabricant told the membership during the rally that the union’s decision to endorse then mayoral-candidate Bill de Blasio when he was lagging in the polls last year should provide the union with the political capital it needs to win a new contract with CUNY, which is funded 25 percent by the city and 75 percent by the state. But they also recognized they’re trying to win a new contract in an era when both city and state unions have had to accept austere contracts.
“We’ve haven’t had a contract since 2010. Like many other of the city unions we couldn’t strike a deal with Bloomberg. Now that there are some contracts being settled we’re very interested in getting [one]. But we have a big problem, and that is we’re the only union that has to negotiate with the city and the state, as well as CUNY. It’s a complicated dance,” said London.
London noted when he spoke during the rally that the union wants to do better than the United Federation of Teachers contract, which calls for 10 percent wage increases over seven years.
“We want a package that will make us competitive. We hire on a national market. Right now we’re not competitive with other universities in the city and around the metropolitan region. We need to have a contract that recognizes that we recruit people who have to move from other parts of the country to live in the city. So the city package really doesn’t meet our needs,” London said.
Given that two-thirds of city unions have signed off on new contracts and state unions accepted five-year contracts with no wage increases for the first three years, we asked London what leverage does the union have to do better than the UFT contract.
“It’s important to note that there are different state patterns. There are contracts settled recently and those contracts are richer, and the Governor said when asked that was then, this is now. We think it’s important to look to the state as well because [the state] is in better times.”
Mr. Fabricant was fired up as he led the profs in chant outside CUNY’s Welcome Center.
“Between the energy and the other kinds of conversations we hope to get one as soon as possible, but it’s not only a contract. It’s a contract that maximizes settlement and economic gain for our members, and, as important, for the university,” said Fabricant.