End-of-Year Reflections

Dear colleagues—

As we wrap up the semester, I just wanted to remind us all of the incredible work we have done in this last year to build the power of our union. Activists in our chapter signed up hundreds of new members, secured more money and additional health benefits for Graduate Assistants, helped to vamp up adjunct organizing city-wide, organized numerous social solidarity events, and much more! For a fuller list of what we have accomplished together, see below.

With our contract expiring in the Fall and an impending union-busting ruling from the Supreme Court, we must continue this momentum over the summer. Join the team that will be leading the contract campaign fight, and check our calendar regularly for updated events. See you out there!

Onward,

Anh Tran, on behalf of the PSC-GC Executive Committee

______________________________

  • We organized a series of workshops on contingent labor with a guest speaker from the California Faculty Association, a union which has achieved pay parity and job security for adjuncts.
  • Our committees—Grievance, Internal Organizing, Solidarity, HEO Steering —have increased member participation in the work of the chapter, and signed up over a dozen new departmental stewards so that the union would have a presence and mobilizational force in every department.
  • We compelled Graduate Center management to stop lowering stipends to offset contractual raises—this means over $1,000 more per year in every Graduate Assistant-B’s pocket.
  • We won back-pay and signing bonuses for Graduate Assistants for the first time.
  • We signed up hundreds of new members in our chapter, and the cumulative work of the past three years nearly tripled our representation at the Delegate Assembly.
  • We led the push at the Delegate Assembly for bottom-up contract negotiations and a PSC-wide Contract/Budget strategy meeting.
  • We helped to  organize and expand the Committee of Adjuncts and Part-Timers, an organizing tool for part-timers throughout the CUNY system.
  • We ended the one year “wait period” for health insurance when Graduate Assistants transfer from the dissertation deposit phase to Adjuncting.
  • We expanded access to the Professional Development Fund for more Graduate Assistants.
  • We organized a petition drive at the School of Professional to pressure the administration to ensure safe drinking water in the building.
  • We organized picketing with Verizon workers for the duration of their strike, demonstrating our commitment to union issues beyond CUNY.
  • We organized a speakout and protest in front of the steps of the Graduate Center when a GC student and chapter member, Saira Rafiee, was denied entry into the U.S. due to Trump’s Muslim travel ban.
  • We organized a speakout on International Women’s Day.
  • We led a contingent of GC students to the May Day marches.
  • We organized a film screening and day of solidarity with the release of two political prisoners: Chelsea Manning and Oscar Lopez Rivera.
  • Through labor management meetings, we pressured GC management into giving our union chapter an office space, to follow up on 1,000 undelivered bonus checks, and to to speed up IRB procedures.

May 24th Chapter Meeting Minutes

Minutes from GC Chapter Meeting 5/24

Welcome – Anh

  • Goal of meeting is to create an action team-Contract Campaign Committee/Action Team- that can put into action plans of this meeting

Political Context for Contract Campaign – Penny, Andrea

  • Our contract expires in November
  • Bad pattern has been set by state unions: 2-2-2 pattern
  • We will almost certainly be facing a 20% cut in our operating budget because of Janus
  • Resistance to Cuomo has fallen because he is positioned as progressive in public eye as compared to Trump and with free tuition
  • Big campaign against Constitutional Convention by many unions and allies. NY Labor Movement is incredibly concerned about this. Pushing people to vote against Constitutional Convention because afraid right-wing interests will oppose workers interests, the homeless, school children.
  • More people are agitated and political engaged in decades. People are angry.
  • Studies about what CUNY does for people of NY. Helps us make a case.
  • Resisting Trump means supporting public sector and supporting public unions.
  • The fight for $15 and fights for inequality means our fight for $7K for adjuncts and movement of salary scales for people at the bottom. Our arguments are going with that.
  • We have over 1 million CUNY alum as untapped resource.
  • Public campaign for support of CUNY is possible.
  • With the contract campaign, we are going to be listening and talking about recommitment campaign. Means we will have a more mobilized membership to fight for campaign.
  • HEOs met last week (about 30 present) to talk about contract last week
  • We will be hearing issues, strategies, plans to report to bargaining team
  • Fill out survey

Open Discussion on Contract Campaign – everyone

  • Why is PEF 222 bad? Because it’s below inflation raises and not enough! We need flexibility to use our pot of money for our specific needs this is a disappointing public sector union pattern
    • Need more money for salaries, parental leave, higher wages for people at lowest salaries. Much more constrained in creativity when don’t have money.
    • Extra money will come from budget campaign because hard to break a pattern
    • If we have a contract campaign tied to a public campaign and CUNY as engine for mobility then Governor may do it.
  • Reach out to CUNY alumni to swing public opinion in our favor
    • CUNY does not keep good records of its alumni! PSC should directly appeal to alumni part of a public-facing contract campaign
    • People in this city care about CUNY and we need to take advantage of this!
  • Should we maximize the discontent around Excelsior Scholarship?
    • We need to educate ourselves on Excelsior Scholarship, its limitations & possibilities
    • Anne from Financial Aid can get us detailed info
    • Excelsior not free tution, undergrad only, must be 30 credits, cannot drop credits. Most students do not take 30 credits every academic year. Designed for only a certain type of student. When graduate have to stay in NY State- must find a job and must file tax return. If you get admitted for a grad program out of state, you can’t go. And it turns into a loan. Financial Aid people don’t like this. Maximum it pays is $5500. Only pays left over of tuition not met and none of it goes in hand of student.
    • Do we tap into people who become disillusioned? By mid-semester people will realize that this is a big lie
  • PSC Member Survey missing “option” for engaging PSC leadership with our demands & our ideas + missing option for open bargaining
    • PSC Member Survey results should be made public
      • Rank-and-file members should control the narrative
      • Every member should have access to survey to make own cross-tabs.
  • Need to find out what unifies all the titles in the union, what one another’s issues are
    • Need to familiarize ourselves with each other’s issues and advocate for one another
    • When we engage in conversations, how do we approach full-time, part-time, HEO, CLT, how do we open up ways of talking to each other and what unifies us in terms of the contract? HEO may not know what adjunct needs. How open it up?
  • PSC Executive Council’s timeline calls for EC creating demands committee rather than consulting with existing committees how do we create a more horizontal flow of information & ideas
    • Timeline will be shorter. Subcommittees are way of functioning- adjunct subcommittee or GA subcommittee (2-3 people). Advisory committees are not on Bargaining Team.
  • When EC appoints bargaining team, will the Bargaining Team include people often excluded like Grad Assistants, CLTs, etc.? Should be crucial part of GC contract campaign.
    • We are currently campaigning the Executive Council to invite on a GA. We are mapping out EC and pushing GA on bargaining team. There has been a positive response. Andrea and Penny are on board.
  • BT needs to be more responsive than in the past.
    • Mandate detailed reportbacks on each bargaining session
    • BT needs to be more responsive than in the past.
    • Include more adjuncts on the bargaining team- proportional representation.
    • Adjuncts need an independent voice. Full-time does not represent all.
    • Has always been a CLT on the BT in the past (this time the CLT on it retired and moved away mid-process but usually there is one).
    • In the past there have been two contracts there where were GAs on the BT.
  • Does the governor & board of trustees know and care about CUNY’s starvation for funds? Are they receptive to studies about CUNY stating its integral role in socioeconomic mobility? What do we do when they say there is no money?
    • We need a robust contract campaign connected to public campaign for CUNY funding & budget campaign learn from Chicago Teacher’s Union with their creative campaign linking these different issues
    • Think ahead to next year’s NYC & NYS budget/election cycle to develop our strategies The current ones are not including more money to increase adjunct pay. Need longer view and need to get serious about contract and budget campaign. This spring, wanted to plug into an active campaign around budget and didn’t happen from union. Opportunity not being given by union. Adjuncts weren’t able to testify because not union priority. Broad campaign around more funding for CUNY.
  • Last round of bargaining had long time. Listened on every campus. We have a complicated bargaining unit with many titles. We had long lists of demands some very detailed and some very broad. We did a lot of listening and unfortunately we didn’t win all of them. Kept records about what members said from different titles. What did we get last time? Do we need more on another title? Grad Assistants weren’t on radar last time and that should be different. The listening on every campus is happening. People are meeting and expressing concerns.
  • Possible that Janus Supreme Court decision (right-to-work for less) may come down earlier than expected
    • DC 37 negotiators, they think Janus decision will come earlier Dec or Jan and they already know that a right-wing think tank in NY has foiled their membership list and they anticipate the day after this decision that everyone in DC37 will get a letter saying you can save $500. Janus says people who are agency fee payers will not have to pay dues.
  • Need to set concrete numeric goals in regards to internal organizing for the contract campaign
  • At GC we got people out for May Day and Women’s Strike. How can we as a chapter help politicize this building more? How do we resist the normalization of Trump? this needs to be made explicit in contract campaign plans
  • Members need a stake & a voice in the process
  • What is the proposed timeline by the PSC Executive Council missing?
    • Nothing on public outreach!
    • Consider timeline as a working document. Something that we can contribute to.
  • Chapter meetings could have educational pieces that dig deeper into relevant & pertinent issues so that we are more prepared for action
  • How do we involve the maximum number of members in our public campaign
  • We will most likely lose adjuncts when we lose agency fee adjunct fight needs to be central in contract campaign
  • The Strike Authorization Vote was the most invigorating time for us learn from SAV campaign for the contract campaign: what worked, what didn’t work
  • “Practice round” for militant contract campaign actions yesterday (5/23) when Cuomo visited the Graduate Center
  • Dozen HEOs and GAs came out last minute with signs to protest Cuomo’s budget before getting thrown out
  • Seems like contract campaign only at union and not on campuses based on
  • Do we anticipate that CUNY will be working with anti-union consultants? What messages for inoculation of membership?

Events calendar – Gerry

  • Each committee should meet over summer. Anything about GC and/or labor. Graduate Center chapter of PSC. Linked to social media

Three May Events

There are three upcoming events to keep in mind (and RSVP for!):

Please RSVP to Sam for the event(s) that you are attending!

Susan Fountain wins the Georgina M. Smith Award!

A big congratulations to chapter member Susan Fountain of SPS, who just won the American Association of University Professors 2017 Georgina M. Smith Award! Susan is the first PSC member to win since 1983, when former PSC President Belle Zeller received the honor.

The award “was established in 1979 to honor the memory of an AAUP leader, Professor Georgina M. Smith (Mathematics, Rutgers), who was a committed feminist and a strong supporter of her local faculty union. The award, in the form of a certificate of recognition, will be presented at the AAUP’s Annual Conference to a person who has provided exceptional leadership in a given year in improving the status of academic women or in academic collective bargaining and through that work has improved the profession in general.”

Susan had this to say in response to winning the award: “I am honored and humbled to be chosen by AAUP as the recipient of the 2017 Georgina M. Smith Award. I am fully aware that the issues noted by AAUP in their award letter – shared governance and health and safety concerns at SPS, adjunct issues across the CUNY system – are ones that can only be addressed collectively. I am fortunate to work with colleagues at SPS and in the Graduate Center Chapter of the PSC – graduate assistants, adjuncts, full-time faculty, and HEOs – whose experience and commitment to social justice and public higher education guide and inspire me every day. I am grateful to each of them. This award will, I hope, be seen as recognition of the work we have done together – and will continue to do!”

Congrats again, Susan! Fully deserved.

 

If you’d like to read Susan’s nomination letter you can see that here.

Minutes from the May Day People’s Assembly

If you couldn’t attend Monday’s May Day People’s Assembly, which continued the planning for GC actions around May Day, you can see the minutes from the meeting here.

The Solidarity Committee also produced the flyers below–please share them widely to help get the word out.

More info to come as the day’s events become more concrete!

A Big Victory for GAs

The increased presence and power of GAs within the PSC, due to two years of chapter organizing, has scored another victory.

Contractual language previously withheld the $750 ratification bonus ($500 for GA-Ds) from any worker who was on an approved leave of absence in either the Spring 2016 or Fall 2016 semester. After months of hard work by GC Chapter officers, CUNY has agreed to pay this ratification bonus to all these affected GAs upon their return to work, no later than Feb. 1, 2018.

If you were previously denied the bonus because you were on a leave of absence, please take the agreement (below) to HR and ask them to begin processing your bonus. Of course, if you have any problems, please contact a GC union officer or shop steward for assistance.

May Day Planning and Action

Trump has been President for two months and the attacks have already begun: the Muslim Ban, the border wall, the Dakota Access Pipeline, etc. CUNY and all of public education will be under attack under Betsy DeVos. As students, adjuncts, professors, and CUNY workers we must give a unified response to these attacks–we must fight back.

Join the PSC GC Solidarity Committee on March 20 from 6:30-8:00pm in room 5414 to build for May 1st. This planning meeting will discuss departmental outreach, lessons learned from the Strike Authorization Vote, a speaker series for political education, and other ideas to prepare for the first May Day under a Trump administration. We will also discuss the possibility of department stoppages and a CUNY-wide shut down on May 1 in resistance to Trump.

See you there!

Check back for updates on future May Day Planning and day-of events and RSVP on Facebook.

Upcoming from the Solidarity Committee

Several events to be aware of:

 

1) Come march with the GC PSC contingent for the March for Education Justice this Saturday, March 4! We will be meeting at 9:00am at the fountain in Columbus Circle (more here).

We march for fully resourced public education, starting with early childcare and including higher education.

 

2)  Join us on Wednesday, March 8 for the International Women’s Day of Action. Wear RED!

10:00am-12:00pm: Sign making in the GC cafeteria

12:30pm-1:30pm: Rally on the front steps of the Graduate Center (Please let us know if you would like to speak!)

4:00pm-8:00pm: Rally in Washington Square Park

We fight for an end to gender violence, especially towards working women, trans women, and women of color. Reproductive justice, labor rights, and environmental justice for all. Full social provisioning. An anti-racist, anti-imperialist, all-inclusive feminism. 

 

3) Save the Date: Join us March 20 from 6:30pm-8:00pm at the GC to build for May 1st. This planning meeting will discuss departmental outreach, lessons learned from the Strike Authorization Vote, a speaker series for political education, and other ideas to prepare for the first May Day under a Trump administration. 

 

Surviving Trump – A Plan for the PSC

Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee founded a club in his youth called “Fascism Forever.” Needless to say, we should not expect much good from Neil Gorsuch. Indeed by mid-2018, we can expect that Janus v. AFSCME will make it’s way to the Court, and the ruling will eliminate agency fees, enabling free riders—people who benefit from collective bargaining but who elect not to contribute to the union. The public sector, in the brilliant parlance of the far right, will become “right to work” (or, more honestly, “right to beg”). The question of the day is: how will the public sector survive this massive structural change? How will the PSC survive – dare we dream, even thrive – under such conditions?

The short answer is: we need every single one of the 25,000 CUNY workers – tenured faculty, adjunct faculty, professional staff, college laboratory technicians, CLIP teachers, graduate assistants – that constitute the PSC to be engaged in the contract fight of our lives in 2017. A powerful and successful contract fight will make us all – both full and part time members – want to contribute financially to the union, when the law no longer requires it. But this begs the question: how can we do better than we’ve done in the past?

Working from a document generated by rank and file PSC members, I propose that there are three core steps that we can take to make possible an inspiring and unprecedented contract campaign.

 

  1. The Future of the Tenure System and Justice for Adjuncts

Labor market trends in higher education have followed trends elsewhere – we increasingly see multi-tier systems, with some good jobs and many bad jobs. The labor force at CUNY is no different. Under-paid and under-integrated adjunct faculty teach the majority of courses at CUNY.

The decline of the CUNY tenure system will only accelerate if we fail to organize adjuncts. We need a set of demands that link the interests of tenured faculty in preserving – expanding! – the tenure system, with the interests of adjuncts, who seek better paying and more stable jobs. I propose three demands that link full and part time interests: 1. 7k/course 2. True lecturer conversion lines for all long-serving adjuncts 3. A cap on the proportion of CUNY courses taught by adjunct faculty. These demands combined would restructure the CUNY labor force to create more good jobs, stem the bleeding of tenure lines, and improve the lot of adjuncts, both long serving and new.

Finally, centering adjunct demands has another advantage – adjunct pay is so low that we can make a strong, moral, public case for additional funding from the City and State. Centering adjuncts is one key tool for breaking pattern bargaining.

 

  1. CUNY Rising +

CUNY Rising is a vital initiative – the PSC has helped to build a coalition of CUNY students, community and faith organizations, and other labor unions to fight for a free and fully funded CUNY. Our bosses are ultimately the City and the State, so only linking our fights with this kind of movement will get us a free and fully funded CUNY.

However, we need to expand CUNY Rising. The PSC has just received an influx of cash from back pay dues. We should use the bulk of this for member organizing, but we should also invest in CUNY Rising, hiring at least a full time organizer, in addition to the part-time support we get from the AFT.

But most importantly, CUNY Rising needs to have an obvious mechanism for member engagement. In our attempt to make CUNY Rising “authentic” we have severed the effort from the membership. But an engaged membership of 25,000 is far more potent than a single organizer. We need to be recruiting for CUNY Rising in our classrooms and in our neighborhoods, following the community organizing model of the Chicago Teachers Union, as they prepared for strike activity.

 

  1. Total PSC-CUNY organization.

Union power comes from one core place – its members. If we are engaged and organized around an inspirational vision of CUNY, our students and communities will support us, and our three bosses – CUNY management, the City and the State –will be afraid of us. How do we get to this point?

A brilliant Executive Committee, even an engaged Delegate Assembly is just not enough. For every 5 – 10 members, we need at least one deeply engaged member-organizer. This means that we need between 2,500 and 5,000 members who are serious organizers and strategists who take agency in this union. If that sounds like a lot, it’s only because we need a lot of power to win, to do better than we’ve done, and to survive and even thrive under a Trump administration. Every single one of us who is engaged needs to help build this structure, and we must use the bulk of the dues cash we just received from back pay to fund this effort.

We need to be able to able to mobilize ourselves – all 25,000 – both consistently and on a moment’s notice. We need to be collectively organized around a vision of a free and fully funded CUNY, constituted by a labor force with only good jobs. We need to know our targets – de Blasio and Cuomo – and we need to aim straight for them. CUNY needs an additional 3.5 billion dollars, and there’s no force other than the PSC that can get it. Let’s do it.

Luke Elliott-Negri, Chapter Chair

Non-Negotiable: Adjunct Parity in the Next PSC-CUNY Contract

Non-Negotiable: Adjunct Parity in the Next PSC-CUNY Contract

A Joint Statement by the PSC GC Adjunct Committee, the Adjunct Project, and CUNY Struggle

 

January 30, 2017

 

Adjunct parity can mean either a complete end to the multi-tier system of faculty labor (such as in the case of Vancouver Community College, where all faculty do the same work, have the same working conditions, and are on the same salary schedule, pro-rated for those working less than full time) or a pro-rata salary schedule for “part-time” faculty so that their wages are in proportion to that of full-time lecturers (as in the case of the California State University). Although many of us would like to see the “Vancouver model” in place at the City University of New York, where adjuncts make roughly 29% to 38% of full-time salaries, have little to no job security, and are largely sidelined from service and research, we recognize that the U.S. labor context and the much-larger scale of CUNY complicate the achievement of that goal.

 

Nevertheless, as we—a group of graduate students at the Graduate Center working as both graduate assistants and adjuncts—have discussed adjunct parity over the last few months, we have come to agreement on the following bottom-line, non-negotiable demands for the upcoming round of bargaining vis-à-vis the expiration of the current PSC-CUNY contract in November 2017:

 

  1. A pro-rata salary schedule for all part-time faculty in proportion to the full-time lecturer salary schedules, with a minimum salary of $7,000 per three-credit course;
  2. Genuine job security in the form of a seniority system based on date of original appointment and the number of credits taught over time;
  3. Representation of part-time faculty and graduate employees on the bargaining committee in proportion to their numbers in the overall bargaining unit.

 

Although the first two demands would not end the multi-tier system of faculty labor at CUNY, they would produce substantial movement toward parity between the salary and job security of part-time and full-time faculty. The last demand, meanwhile, would produce parity in the bargaining committee, which we hope would help the overall bargaining committee hold fast to the first two demands.

 

In solidarity,

 

Graduate Center Graduate Assistants and Adjuncts of:

the PSC GC Adjunct Committee

the Adjunct Project

CUNY Struggle

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