New York, NY – Leaders of PSC-CUNY, [Professional Staff Congress] led a rally and blockade on Monday, December 10, outside Baruch College in Manhattan, demanding a fair contract and sufficient funding. During a meeting of the CUNY Board of Trustees, hundreds of CUNY faculty and staff chanted, “CUNY Trustees, do your job! Demand the funding CUNY needs!” while blocking the doors to Baruch College – 17 were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.
Those busted included union President Barbara Bowen along with the vice-president and secretary – as well as local campus leaders and members of the executive council.
“We went there to risk arrest and with demands and told them we would block the doors – and we did,” Bowen said. “We were held until midnight in cells and have desk appearances.”
There are a half-million CUNY students across the city; meanwhile, CUNY’s 30,000 faculty and staff have been working without a contract for over a year. The University Board of Trustees is tasked with providing funding for faculty and staff and approves the university’s annual budget request, which is currently in development, and its collective bargaining agreement with faculty and staff, which expired last November.
“Faculty salaries are thousands of dollars below those at comparable institutions, adjuncts receive poverty-level pay, college libraries are cutting hours and the students are being asked to pay higher and higher tuition,” Bowen said. “It’s time for the CUNY Board to stop defending austerity and start demanding the funding CUNY needs.”
There are 12,000 adjunct faculty, who hold Master’s Degrees and PhDs, earning an average wage of $3,500 per course, the equivalent of $28,000 per year. In a Twitter video post, Carly Smith, VP of Part-Time Personnel and Baruch College Adjunct, who was prepared for arrest, demanded a better salary, saying that all teachers should make at least $70,000 per year. The union is demanding real raises for all full-time faculty and staff and $7,000 per course for CUNY adjuncts.
The last contract between the university and its workers was not fully funded by the state; the inflation-level raises it granted were funded with cuts to senior college academic programs, increased reliance on low-wage adjuncts, and tuition hikes for students. The union argues that increased public funding, not increased tuition, is the only sustainable way to support fair salaries and quality education at CUNY. The University Budget Request for FY2020, due to be released any day, is the document that will show whether the CUNY Board is serious about quality education for students, and wage justice for workers.
James Davis, chair of PSC CUNY at Brooklyn College, and an adjunct, told LaborPress, about the protest.
“We’re looking for an investment we haven’t seen in many years, so we recognize business as usual [won’t get us where we want to be in] the negotiations,” he said.
“Most importantly, CUNY has been desperately underfunded by both the city and the state, especially by the state, and the union is calling on the trustees to do their job, and stop accepting austerity funding for CUNY,” Bowen told LaborPress. “[It cuts] classes, library hours, and charges students higher and higher tuition.”