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Notes from 3-12-20 COVID19 Meeting with GC Management

Please see this PDF of the meeting we had with President Muyskens: Muyskens coronavirus meeting

If you have questions or concerns please contact chapter chair Luke Elliott-Negri.

Stay safe, everyone.

Notes from Emergency Budget Meeting on 1-27-20

In response to Interim President Muyksen’s January 9th email about budget freezes and cuts at the Graduate Center, the PSC chapter called an emergency meeting on the first day of the semester. The Skylight room was packed, and President Muyskens attended the second half to answer questions. Below is a summary of the meeting and some proposed ideas for moving forward, drafted by Penny Lewis.

The first and ongoing discussion of the meeting concerned budget transparency—while the administration held conversations with various constituencies last semester, none appear to have been directly consulted or informed about the decisions reflected in the January 9th letter. Some ideas about transparent communication that came out of the meeting included sharing exact details about the budget shortfall, sharing budget documents and the economic logics to decisions about where cuts are proposed, consulting regularly and ahead of time with relevant governance and union bodies about proposed changes to the budget, having the heads of finance meet with school leaders who understand more directly how the proposed budget shrinkages will affect the running of the school. The GC community could also be more directly informed about the status of some of the traditional sources of revenue, including MA programs, CUTRA, and research grants, and how/whether disappointed expectations about or changes to those sources of money are affecting the shortfalls the GC sees today. Finally, while we are heartened to hear of the reduction of ECP staff, the administration at the GC continues to appear large to us, and transparency about the size, scope and responsibilities of the overall ECP staff is critical for the broader GC community to appreciate why and whether proposed cuts (elsewhere) are legitimate.

Additionally, there are longer-term and structural conditions faced by the GC that we think should be considered in light of the GC’s perennial budget problems. The reimbursement arrangements for consortial faculty, the support that the GC extends to numerous CUNY-wide programs, the support the GC provides to University Center schools – how is the GC’s budget negatively impacted by these CUNY-wide practices, and does CUNY central administration adequately or fairly compensate the GC for its unique role and structure?

Our members are concerned that contingent staff, such as College Assistants and NTA’s, not bear the burden of hiring “pauses” or freezes. We have already heard about the non-replacement of a research librarian, and are concerned that other essential positions will go unfilled. Rather than figuring out how to survive with fewer people in the building, we think our position should be to do all that’s necessary to increase funding to maintain and, as needed, increase essential staff, faculty and student support. 

To that end, we believe that the GC administration can, and should, engage a robust, coordinated with CUNY but also independent, campaign for greater funding within CUNY and in Albany. The GC is a unique institution that makes singular contributions to the system as a whole, to the city, and to the profession. Much of the central lobbying around issues such as tuition reimbursement, or the “TAP gap,” for instance, are irrelevant to the GC, and in fact all funding ratios connected to FTE’s are irrelevant to the GC. We are made invisible in our uniqueness, and it would not, we believe, sabotage the efforts of the system as a whole to draw particular and special focus to our institution through pressure at CUNY central, in public campaigns or in lobbying. As a start, President Muyskens committed to meeting, along with members of the PSC-CUNY Graduate Center community, with state senator Brad Hoylman, whose district encompasses our campus.

Spring 2020 Tuition Remission for Doctoral Employees

Starting this spring, the new union contract provides tuition relief to all doctoral students who are employed in a PSC-represented title for four additional semesters beyond their fifth year of study.

There is a very quick turnaround between ratification and implementation, so we need to be vigilant that people are not receiving incorrect bills! If you feel that you have been billed improperly, please email our grievance officer!

Again, the benefit covers all doctoral employees for four additional semesters-for the value of in-state, Level III tuition, which is currently $1,235 per semester.

  • For those who pay the in-state rate and who are at Level III, this means that they will have no tuition obligation.
  • For those who pay out-of-state rates or who are at Levels I or II past their fifth year, their tuition obligation will be reduced by the in-state, Level III rate.

For those in their fifth year making plans for next fall, it is important to remember that you must be employed in a PSC-represented title to receive this benefit. One way to think of this is that the value of working at CUNY-as opposed to picking up a course elsewhere, for example-increases by $1,235 each semester, for the four semesters of the new benefit.

Another quirk of this benefit is that most who are eligible to receive it in Spring 2020 are not receiving this email. After the fifth year, many doctoral students are working as adjuncts in other chapters. For this reason, it is especially important that faculty advisors, APOs, and other colleagues make sure to share this information far and wide. There are likely to be bumps in implementation, and we want to be sure that everyone receives the full benefit!

 

[Update] Financial Aid commented with additional information:

“A few clarifications: Every student gets billed. Once the tuition remission disburses, it will pay the bill. Disbursement cannot happen until January 20th at the earliest. Students should not panic if they owe a balance at this time. Students will receive an email when their remission has been posted in CUNYfirst. In order for us to post tuition remission, the student must both be registered full-time and have qualifying spring appointment in CUNYfirst. Please contact us with questions!!”

Resolution on Strike Authorization Campaign Now! (amended and approved)

Adopted at the chapter meeting on 9/11/19

STRIKE AUTHORIZATION CAMPAIGN NOW! 

Whereas: the PSC’s contract campaign has so far failed to yield positive results, and CUNY’s Board of Trustees has used our bargaining demands as a pretext for approving a $200/year tuition increase for CUNY undergraduate students at the four-year colleges; 

Whereas: without a credible threat of a strike, PSC members have no power to win our contract demands and especially the demand for $7K per course as the adjunct starting pay, or to demand sufficient funding from New York State to pay for our contract without raising tuition; 

Whereas: the PSC carried out a strike authorization campaign for the last contract and did not incur Taylor Law penalties; 

Therefore be it resolved that: the members of the Graduate Center chapter of the PSC assembled today urges the PSC Executive Council and Delegate Assembly to immediately:

  • Launch and publicize a CUNY-wide strike authorization campaign, using the Proposed Strike Authorization Campaign Plan appended below as a guide;
  • Double the number of paid part-time liaisons at each campus; 
  • Task all PSC organizing staff and part-time liaisons with developing and supporting mobilization teams on every campus to build toward a strike; 

Be it further resolved that: effective immediately, the members of the Graduate Center chapter of the PSC assembled: 

  • Pledges available chapter resources toward a serious strike mobilization campaign on our campus, as detailed in the Proposed Strike Authorization Campaign; 
  • Commits to hiring a chapter member as a strike authorization organizer who is paid the same rate as a part-time liaison out of the chapter’s funds and who is tasked with mobilizing the chapter membership, as detailed in the Proposed Strike Authorization Campaign Plan; 
  • Convenes a strike committee as a standing committee of the chapter, composed of the elected chapter leadership and rank-and-file PSC members from all job titles and chaired by someone not in the chapter Executive Committee, to lead this campaign at the Graduate Center and report on its progress at chapter meetings. 

*** Proposed Strike Authorization Campaign Plan 

  • Strike authorization pledge:
    • Assign campus organizers to reach out to all members with a strike pledge card affirming they will vote yes to a strike authorization vote on the current contract; that they will respect the picket line if and when we strike; and that in the event that the union’s dues checkoff rights are revoked under the Taylor Law, they will sign up for automatic monthly payment of dues directly to the PSC; with the costs of printing these pledge cards paid by chapter funds
  • Membership mobilization: develop and support teams of rank and file members on each campus to:
    • Work with organizing staff to get strike pledge cards signed.
    • Work with members, students, and other supporters on campus to build the campaign and organize escalating militant actions leading toward a strike.
    • Educate members about the importance of a strike and how effective strikes can win important gains, with food for educational meetings provided through chapter funds
    • Organize picket schedules and train picket volunteers, including in how to respond to potential picket-crossers, with food for training meetings provided through chapter funds
    • Organize drives for food, clothes, books, and other items that might be needed during strike.
    • Begin outreach to collect information about which members will need financial assistance during a potential strike.
    • Coordinate with the PSC central office regarding strike funds and CUNY-wide logistics.
  • Building mobilization capacity:
    • Double the number of part-time liaisons.
    • Hire more organizers.
    • Task all organizing staff and part-time liaisons with developing and supporting the mobilization teams on every campus to get pledge cards signed and build strike support.
    • Eliminate unrealistic membership card quotas for liaisons and retroactively consider all efforts to build power toward a fair contract as legitimate paid work.
    • Include rank-and-file activists and organizers in every aspect of this campaign.
    • Hire student organizers on each campus and/or pay stipends to students to build solidarity.
    • Hire community organizers to mobilize CUNY community members including alumni, families of CUNY students, and parents of NYC public high school students.
  • Financial resources:
    • Set up an online fundraising platform for a “militancy” fund to provide support in case of a strike.
  • Publicity:
    • Launch a broad public campaign designed to maximize and mobilize the support of students, other unions and their members, and the wider NYC community for a possible strike.
    • Encourage the meaningful participation in public relations work of all rank-and-file member-activists who bring skills and experience into the campaign, including with social media.
  • Coordination:
    • Create a CUNY-wide strike authorization coordinating committee of active rank-and-file campus leaders and organizers from every campus that reports regularly to the PSC Delegate Assembly and Executive Council but is independent of both bodies.
    • Empower this committee to make adjustments to plans and procedures in consultation with PSC staff and in keeping with the spirit of this proposal.

Resolution on Strike Authorization Campaign Now!

STRIKE AUTHORIZATION CAMPAIGN NOW! 

Whereas: the PSC’s contract campaign has so far failed to yield positive results, and CUNY’s Board of Trustees has used our bargaining demands as a pretext for approving a $200/year tuition increase for CUNY undergraduate students at the four-year colleges; 

Whereas: without a credible threat of a strike, PSC members have no power to win our contract demands and especially the demand for $7K per course as the adjunct starting pay, or to demand sufficient funding from New York State to pay for our contract without raising tuition; 

Whereas: the PSC carried out a strike authorization campaign for the last contract and did not incur Taylor Law penalties; 

Therefore be it resolved that: the Graduate Center chapter of the PSC urges the PSC Executive Council and Delegate Assembly to immediately:

  • Launch and publicize a CUNY-wide strike authorization campaign, using the Proposed Strike Authorization Campaign Plan appended below as a guide;
  • Double the number of paid part-time liaisons at each campus; 
  • Task all PSC organizing staff and part-time liaisons with developing and supporting mobilization teams on every campus to build toward a strike; 
  • Raise dues to 2% for all members earning more than $70K/year gross pay; and 

Be it further resolved that: effective immediately, the Graduate Center chapter of the PSC: 

  • Pledges available chapter resources toward a serious strike mobilization campaign on our campus, as detailed in the Proposed Strike Authorization Campaign; 
  • Commits to hiring a chapter member as a strike authorization organizer, chosen by an in-person election at the following chapter meeting, who is paid the same rate as a part-time liaison out of the chapter’s funds and who is tasked with mobilizing the chapter membership, as detailed in the Proposed Strike Authorization Campaign Plan; 
  • Convenes a strike committee as a standing committee of the chapter, composed of the elected chapter leadership and rank-and-file PSC members from all job titles and chaired by someone not in the chapter Executive Committee, to lead this campaign at the Graduate Center and report on its progress at chapter meetings. 

*** Proposed Strike Authorization Campaign Plan 

  • Strike authorization pledge:
    • Assign campus organizers to reach out to all members with a strike pledge card affirming they will vote yes to a strike authorization vote on the current contract; that they will respect the picket line if and when we strike; and that in the event that the union’s dues checkoff rights are revoked under the Taylor Law, they will sign up for automatic monthly payment of dues directly to the PSC; with the costs of printing these pledge cards paid by chapter funds
  • Membership mobilization: develop and support teams of rank and file members on each campus to:
    • Work with organizing staff to get strike pledge cards signed.
    • Work with members, students, and other supporters on campus to build the campaign and organize escalating militant actions leading toward a strike.
    • Educate members about the importance of a strike and how effective strikes can win important gains, with food for educational meetings provided through chapter funds
    • Organize picket schedules and train picket volunteers, including in how to respond to potential picket-crossers, with food for training meetings provided through chapter funds
    • Organize drives for food, clothes, books, and other items that might be needed during strike.
    • Begin outreach to collect information about which members will need financial assistance during a potential strike.
    • Coordinate with the PSC central office regarding strike funds and CUNY-wide logistics.
  • Building mobilization capacity:
    • Double the number of part-time liaisons.
    • Hire more organizers.
    • Task all organizing staff and part-time liaisons with developing and supporting the mobilization teams on every campus to get pledge cards signed and build strike support.
    • Eliminate unrealistic membership card quotas for liaisons and retroactively consider all efforts to build power toward a fair contract as legitimate paid work.
    • Include rank-and-file “$7K or Strike” activists and organizers in every aspect of this campaign.
    • Hire student organizers on each campus and/or pay stipends to students to build solidarity.
    • Hire community organizers to mobilize CUNY community members including alumni, families of CUNY students, and parents of NYC public high school students.
  • Financial resources:
    • Raise dues to 2% for all members earning more than $70K/year.
    • Set up an online fundraising platform for a “militancy” fund to provide support in case of a strike.
  • Publicity:
    • Launch a broad public campaign designed to maximize and mobilize the support of students, other unions and their members, and the wider NYC community for a possible strike.
    • Encourage the meaningful participation in public relations work of all rank-and-file member-activists who bring skills and experience into the campaign, including with social media.
  • Coordination:
    • Create a CUNY-wide strike authorization coordinating committee of active rank-and-file campus leaders and organizers from every campus that reports regularly to the PSC Delegate Assembly and Executive Council but is independent of both bodies.
    • Empower this committee to make adjustments to plans and procedures in consultation with PSC staff and in keeping with the spirit of this proposal.

PSC Letter Regarding the Lack of AC on Friday, 8/30/19

Debbie Bell, Executive Director of the PSC, sent the following to Interim President Muyskens on 8/28/19:

 

President Muyskens:

Professional Staff Congress (PSC), the union representing CUNY instructional staff and Research Foundation employees at the Graduate Center, has received dozens of emails and phone calls from members about the plan to turn off air conditioning at the Graduate Center on Friday, August 30th. The temperature is forecast to be in excess of 85 degrees that day. PSC is concerned that once the building heats up, it will be an unhealthy work environment.

Generally accepted standards are that indoor air temperature above 80.5 degrees is too hot for productive work. Union representatives will be monitoring indoor air temperatures as the day progresses. An easy way to avoid members’ concerns about Friday would be to communicate in advance that employees have the discretion to leave work if they feel ill due to the heat or overheated,  as long as they notify their supervisor. The union has no doubt that the impact of relying on members’ discretion for this single day of construction will be minimal. It is, after all, a single day and not a recurring project.

PSC appreciates your swift attention to taking this action. Do not hesitate to call me, if you would like to discuss further: 212-354-1252

Best,

Deborah Bell

PSC Executive Director

 

PDF: PSC Letter on Lack of A-C on 8-30-19

First Chapter Meeting of the 2019-2020 School Year

Mark your calendar for September 11th, 12:30pm, the date of our first chapter meeting of the new school year! We’ll be meeting in the Skylight room on the 9th floor of The Graduate Center. All GC, ASRC, SPS, SLU, J-School, Public Health, Macaulay workers are welcome.

Please RSVP to Sam so we can order the appropriate amount of food, or RSVP on Facebook.

Border Camps

We have all been watching in horror as the reports from the U.S.-Mexico border roll in: children locked in overcrowded cages, literally – literally – wallowing in their own filth. TortureSicknessDeath. This horror is unfolding at the same time that President Trump is holding hate rallies, leading directly to death threats against elected officials.

Thankfully, people are also fighting back. Stephanie Luce (GC-PSC Chapter & EC member) was arrested with dozens of others, including Carolina Bank Munoz from Brooklyn College, blocking traffic at 42nd and 5th last week. Marc Kagan protested in Washington D.C. last week with Never Again Action. Lynne Turner joined a protest of Amazon Web Services for collaborating with ICE, part of the #NoTechforICE campaign. I am sure many of us have been involved in various ways, but for those who haven’t, there will soon be more opportunities to disrupt and register our dissent soon.

  • There will be a silent protest at the World Trade Center Oculus this Thursday, July 25, 5:30-6:30pm (just before Special DA that begins at 6:30pm.)  The FB event is here.
  • Cosecha NYC and other organizations are planning a direct action on August 10th.  The FB event about the action is here. People can sign up for one of the non-violent direct action trainings leading up to the event here.
  • Rise and Resist has a civil disobedience workshop scheduled for Saturday, Aug 3, 11am-4pm at Tompkins Square Library. The FB event for the CD workshop is here.
  • The New Sanctuary Movement is running accompaniment trainings, to provide support to immigrants targeted by ICE.

What a union is

Dear Graduate Center Colleagues –

This semester the Graduate Center wrote checks to approximately a dozen graduate employees in the Math department for more than $1,000 each. This outcome was the product of several years of chapter building, and the hard work of many individuals.

At least once in the past, GC management has reduced the stipend portion of the graduate employee five-year funding packages in response to contractually negotiated raises and/or step increases – in effect recouping the money. To prevent this in the last contract round, PSC chapter and central leadership met with then-President Chase Robinson, who proceeded to communicate to graduate employees that this practice would not continue.

Around the same time, Maya Harakawa set out to build a union steward program, one which Harry Blain has continued to build. Our ultimate goal is to have a union representative for every ten members, so that we truly have a structure that makes the union alive to everyone. Getting to this point takes hours of thankless work that both Maya and Harry have engaged with cheer and energy.

Now, where the rubber hits the road: Chris Natoli has been the union shop steward in the Math department almost since the inception of the program. This semester, he discovered that for two years, grad employees in the Math department had their fifth-year stipends decreased in precisely the amount of the contractually negotiated raises – the very practice that management had committed not to do several years earlier. Chris brought the issue to the chapter EC, and the chapter brought it to management; management acknowledged the error, and quickly issued checks, also changing the practice going forward.

I write this email precisely because the work that Maya, Harry and Chris did to produce this outcome – putting thousands of dollars back in the hands of graduate employees – is generally not visible and is not always exciting in the day to day. Events like the WAC fight last year that resulted in a reduction in workload for all 5thyear GCFs certainly put the chapter on the map. But this patient work of finding leaders and formalizing their leadership, of paying attention to the details and enforcing both the contract and the commitments of management are an essential part of making a union what it is.

Long story short: reply to this email if you want to become a shop steward J

Solidarity & power,

Luke Elliott-Negri, PSC-GC Chapter Chair

G.A. Summer Agreement

Below are copies of the letters from Human Resources that Graduate Assistants recently received. They outline the ability of G.A.s to adjunct over the summer.

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