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Yearly Archives: 2016
Donald Trump’s election will have dire effects across almost all issue areas in the United States and beyond. Public sector unions are not immune from this—quite the opposite. We expect to lose “agency fee,” in 18 months, under a Trump Supreme Court. This will allow “free riders” and presents a crisis of funding to the entire public sector labor movement.
It is in this context that the PSC GC chapter is hiring a part-time organizer to strengthen the chapter. We expect approximately one full day of work per week, and the position will be compensated at $893.25 per month. The primary work of the position will be to build a steward structure in the chapter in coordination with the Internal Organizing Committee, ultimately at a ratio of approximately one activist for every 10 members. We seek to recruit and develop leaders of color in these steward positions wherever possible. In addition, the position will help to convert agency fee payers to members, and to build the public presence of the PSC at the Graduate Center.
Please submit a brief statement of interest in the position (one page or less), as well as a CV highlighting your CUNY employment, and any organizing experience you have, in the labor movement or elsewhere. These documents should be sent to Deirdre Brill. Applicants should be a GC PSC chapter member and active CUNY employee.
Work of the position:
- Build and manage steward structure in coordination with the Chapter Internal Organizing Committee
- Attend or organize two department meetings per month
- One-on-one “conversations” via phone and email – 15 per month
- Lead new member orientation – one per year
- Organize a PSC chapter GC lobby presence – one per month
Colin P. Ashley is a Graduate Center student in Sociology. Below is his statement in response to the brutal attack this past weekend on Colin and a group of other activists by pro-Trump goons. It is republished with Colin’s permission.
I am in good spirits. I am not detoured. I am Black, Queer and yes still fabulous! Next time I will be better equipped to whoop some fascist ass.
ON WHAT HAPPENED
Saturday was an amazing day for racial justice organizing and activism. I started the day by attending the Forward Union (FU) fair tabling for PPA. The FU event was a space that allowed artists, grassroots activists and organizers, and community organizations to meet and share what they were working on around issues of justice and equality. While there, I was invited to speak on a ‘Why we say Fuck the Police! panel’ with family from NYC Shut It Down. The panel was extremely powerful, the message well received. Despite the snow the event was well attended and quite impactful. It ended with a dance party, drag queens and a queer performance piece. I danced. I then went and joined other friends at the Decolonize This Place closing night event (many of whom were at FU and left earlier). Decolonize is a space where social justice movement folks, artists, thinkers gathered to commune, organize, celebrate, and work towards decentering whiteness. The place was packed, filled with people of color, queers, friends, family. I danced.
As the night started to wind down a large group of us stood outside chanting various movement chants—solidifying bonds and our commitment to continue forward in our fights for racial justice. A smaller group of us moved down the street heading off to grab food and continued chanting. Four men quickly approached us shouting “Trump, Trump, Trump” with one of them flashing his blue lives matter bracelet at us. We in response continued chanting, switching up our chant to the fuck trump protest song: “Ole, Ole Ole Ole…Fuck Trump, Fuck Trump.” One of the guys, RacistHomophobeDudeBroMcFuckFace pointed at me and shouted, “He’s a fucking faggot.” and I screamed back, “Yeah, I’m a fucking faggot so the fuck what!” and continued on my way crossing the street.
This moment is important…really important…because I know this guy. Guys like this have called me faggot before. Guys like this who are insanely insecure and threatened by any and all difference. He expected my shame. He expected me to be demure and weakened by his homophobic slur. His toxic masculinity is fueled by this expectation. It was a desire for power and I did not comply with this expectation. This moment is also important because it is not new. I’m a black queer man. I’ve been called faggot and been threatened before. I have known all types of violence like this. While the election of Trump may have emboldened these types they’ve always been there: threatening anything and everyone that they perceive as different. Their sense of self depends on this. I know this guy and we all must know him. Authoritarian and fascists ideas resonate with him. He knows offense and seeks power through his fists. He is probably more willing to kill for his ideas than we are.
When I turned back around, dudebro (6’2”, 220lbs) was yelling at Connor, a friend and fellow queer activist. A few folks were trying to separate them. As I approached, dudebro sucker punched Connor in the face. I stepped in to defend Connor and the brawl took off. My instinct was to grapple. This instinct failed me. I did everything in my power to bring the dude to the ground. While doing so he wailed continuously on my face. Once on the ground, he managed to get on top of me and continued wailing. I landed some body punches but couldn’t sweep him. Several friends tried to peel him off me but his friends were attacking them and preventing them from offering aide. My perspective from this point was limited. It was a perspective from the ground. They ended up taking off and I was rushed inside to get needed care. I was later told that the group of guys ran to the cops and used the cops as a shield from those of us who ran after them. I was told the cops let them go and told our people to go inside. I wish I knew more of the details around this but this does not surprise me. The police are not here to protect us. I certainly don’t remember the cops breaking anything up but again, perspective: ground
ON CIRCULATING TRAUMA
I get that these stories need to be told. Believe me I do. My face, my name, my stories have circulated rapidly through social media before, but we as organizers and activists must do better. The story that first circulated on FB and Twitter did not go through my community first. I understand that this is a communal story, but I personally felt distant from what was happening on FB and Twitter. I just felt disembodied. (Probably due to the head injury!– buh buh buh) I guess this is part and parcel to the nature of social media. But I was missing. Some of my politics were missing. So I want to share this to feel a bit more bodied. I worry that the 24 hour news cycle has taught us that we have to push out information rapidly. We don’t. We have to first center the survivors of violence, their needs, story, and politics–especially the most marginalized amongst us.
The day after the attack, I found myself constantly juggling texts, fb posts, signal threads, twitter feeds, emails, and calls. It was a lot. But I tried to dive in, frozen popsicle over my eye (I’ve since moved on to a real ice pack) and did my best. These conversations were fundamentally important. Organizers were figuring out how to respond and take action, the press (more on them later) wanted details, and most importantly my whole community wanted to make sure that I was ok. I am still slowly responding to this outpouring of love.
I did not cry after the attack. I cried because of the immense support I received. It was awe-inspiring. This is why I believe that we will win. We just need to continue to grow more organized and strategic. I have worked to cull deplorables from my social media network. Others have not. I was immediately targeted online by Pepe-meme wielding deplorables. I am not upset at anyone or asking that anything be taken down. This story should be told. These are just some ideas on how we can better protect ourselves going forward.
ON THE PRESS
The press moves fast. We must remember they want a story. In these cases the story is about the act of the harm, not necessarily the people who were harmed. Let’s slow the press down. Especially the press that is friendly to social movements. Our stories are important. Our politics are important. I point to this because the story being told over and over is too focused on Trump. Yes, since he was elected, hate crimes have gone up, but we must continue to stress that this shit is a continuation of this country’s racist, sexist, homophobic history. This shit is instilled in our very structures and institutions. A bunch of fagotts being beat up by some hateful racist homophobic pigs isn’t new. Our enemies are bigger than this group of assholes. We have to dismantle entire structures. We have to live in alternative ways. We have so much work to do.
ON NEEDING SELF DEFENSE
Yep! Check! Wish I knew some sweeps and I need to get my jab on point. But, to be clear…many of us are working tirelessly on trying to organize these classes and much much more. What we need is you. We need more people joining us, organizing with us, volunteering their skills. Many folks organizing around racial justice are exhausted and burnt out. We have already lost too many of our strongest organizers because of this. Since the election we have many new faces in our organizations. People are growing fast politically, but those of us who have been in this for a while now are still being told love and peace when we say militancy, strategy, and resistance. We are not anti-love. Love just isn’t a political strategy. These sentiments must be channeled into forms of resistance and this resistance must be both strategic and militant. We need all hands on deck.
Many people are too invested in non-profit organizations. The work that many of them do is important but their role is by nature limited. Many people still hold to a faith in the Democratic party and their elected officials. They have failed us time and time again. Malcolm X’s speech about the fox and the wolf rings loudly in this moment. Others still cling to the idea that racial capitalism can be reformed. This is the biggest lie. We must let it go.
Come. Join us in the grassroots organizations working on these very issues. We are not paid. We do this work out of love and survival. We need you. If you have ever said on social media that we need to take self defense classes and are not part of an organization or community group: join one. Help us organize these classes. If you can teach self defense: volunteer. Here are NYC groups that you can plug into:
People’s Power Assemblies (PPA)
NYC Shut It Down
PPA has just formed several borough based community defense committees… two in Brooklyn and one in queens have grown the fastest so far.
There are many ways to plug in and offer support…just jump in.
This was a hate crime…but the whole damn country is a hate crime on top of a hate crime on top of a bunch of hate crimes. Assholes like the ones that attacked us need to be stopped but the whole damn country needs to be transformed. Racial capitalism must be destroyed and I am still dedicated to working toward its destruction. Again, I am not detoured. I have lost loved ones to police brutality. I have lost loved ones to homophobia and transphobia. I have seen friends attacked by the police. I have seen a friend nearly lose her arm because of the militarized police at Standing Rock. This moment isn’t about our current political reality. Our political system was designed to uphold racial capitalism and to condense power and wealth into the hands of fewer and fewer people. Trump is a continuation of this, not its exception. This system is clearly collapsing under its own contradictions. We must help that collapse along while building alternative ways to exist. We must take seriously the racial justice movements that have worked towards the destruction of racism, hetero-patriarchy, and capitalism. The moment is upon us.
Black Lives Matter
Below you will find notes from our previous two chapter meetings (on October 24th and December 1st). The notes from the October meeting are specifically on the take-aways from the small group breakout session where members talked about what they hope to see in the next CUNY/PSC contract; the notes from December are a summary of meeting in its entirety, and the discussion of several documents discussed.
A big thank you to Chloe Asselin (Urban Education) for both!
Graduate Center PSC chapter member Contract Demands (October 24th meeting)
- Free tuition as part of contract
- Tuition remission for kids of PSC members
- Disclosure of administrative pay
- Cap number of online courses
- make sure professors teaching online get same pay, benefits, etc.
- Paid office hours
- Lecture salaries as comparable rate- proportional pay to time worked
- Multiyear contracts
- Fixed ratio of adjuncts to full-time faculty/cap number of adjuncts
- Flat sum raise as non-negotiable
- Graduate Assistants
- Fluid transitions between graduate assistants and adjuncts in salary steps. GA work should count as adjunct step increases starting at step 2
- Graduate students have a promotional option to get full-time jobs
- Cap on class size
- Language needed around TAships- “excessive workload” is vague
- Formalize preservation of raises for GAs so that stipends are included in bargaining
- Pedagogy skills before entering classroom
- Transparency in the reclassification process
- Equal pay for equal jobs for HEOs when new contract negotiated
- Possibility to work from home under certain circumstances such as medical ones
- Authority in shaping funding, awards, recognition, representation in different kinds of decision-making
- Replenish center lines with full-time staff
- Increase number of full-time faculty lines
- Diversity requirements
- Course credit for teaching in summer
- Fair share of external research grants
- Make refusal to fill open lines from retirement, etc. grievable
- Protect tenure
Meeting notes from December 1st
We focused on the urgency of fighting back against the attack on labor of a Trump administration. A Trump Supreme Court will most likely vote in favor of a court case similar to “Friedrichs” making the entire country “right to work.” We presented three documents we hope the EC will endorse/pass tomorrow: CUNY as a sanctuary campus, labor against Trump, and a resolution centering adjuncts. We discussed a four-point plan that includes 1. Center the PSC’s work on CUNY Rising and on broad social and economic justice issues; 2. Place part-timer demands front and center in our contract negotiations; 3. Be prepared to strike; 4. Deepen relationships with the most progressive and powerful elements of the NYC labor movement.
Action steps for PSC based on group discussions from today’s chapter meeting:
- Get a large group to go present adjunct resolution at the Delegate Assembly on December 15
- Mobilize base with TWU contract fight in January. We have time in January since CUNY is on vacation. Opportunity to get GTF’s involved
- Get members to DC for Inauguration Day protests
- Prioritizing adjuncts in contract campaign should not just be a strategic issue about next “Friedrichs”. Should happen no matter what
- Urgency of signing up adjuncts right now to build adjunct power. Need more adjunct members
- We need clearer vision and concrete steps
- Create Strike Committee now
- Leverage of public campaign.
- Part of public campaign power was SAV
- Connect civil rights with labor rights
- Public campaign about how CUNY provides for NYC. We train police, teachers, fire fighters
- Internal educational work to build participation and engagement
- Meetings between full-timers and part-timers. Meetings with students and faculty on different campuses
- Commitment to organize adjuncts on each campus and provide educational resources to build solidarity
- Use issues to do more one-on-one organizing similar to SAV. Train members to talk to other members and make connections between issues. Fight for contract is tied to broader issues around CUNY
- Because we have many new members, we need more information provided to members on CUNY Rising, on last contract- what was successful or not, and explain acronyms
- Highlight places of success for adjuncts and full-time faculty. Bring activists from locations to GC to discuss goals and how they achieved them. Adjust for CUNY and NY
- Create meaningful solidarity between different tiers of the workforce and with our students
- Stronger language in Sanctuary statement. Ban ICE, surveillance, police on CUNY campuses
- PSC commitment to action if CUNY doesn’t respect sanctuary
- CUNY Rising- build committees on each campus to have more conversations
- More about CUNY Rising and fact that it is student centered. How does union respond to student movements? How does union contribute to student movements?
- Larger labor movement in city. What are they doing and how is PSC participating?
- Use PSC meetings to make concrete demands.
- Language of 4-point plan should include race and inclusivity and include sanctuary campus language
- Academic freedom needs to be part of the discussion
- Build coalitions with K-12 teachers across states (PA and NJ)
- Reach out to alumni. Alumni support CUNY and the union.
- Have members participate as much as possible in next contract fight. Have members participate in creation and prioritization of demands
WHEREAS the mission of CUNY is, in part, “to maintain and expand its commitment to academic excellence and to the provision of equal access and opportunity for students, faculty and staff from all ethnic and racial groups and from both sexes. The City University is of vital importance as a vehicle for the upward mobility of the disadvantaged in the City of New York,”
WHEREAS the City University of New York (CUNY) employs some 13,000 adjuncts (according to the Professional Staff Congress [PSC], the union of CUNY faculty and staff). Adjuncts comprise 59% of the CUNY faculty but earn only 29-38% of what full-time faculty earn making them the largest section of the bargaining unit and the most oppressed;
WHEREAS adjuncts are consistently subjected to unpredictable working conditions, including but not limited to late pay, classes cancellations, lack of rehiring, disproportionate class sizes that vary by campus and department, and inadequate access to instructional resources;
WHEREAS a significant number of Graduate Center (GC) students adjunct to subsidize their graduate studies and living expenses, whether solely or in addition to graduate assistantships, especially those students who entered the GC prior to 2013;
WHEREAS the working conditions of CUNY’s adjuncts are the learning conditions of its undergraduate and graduate students;
WHEREAS the recent contract negotiations did not make adjunct equity issues the main priority;
WHEREAS a public-facing campaign for adjunct parity, in addition to being morally right, is of great strategic value to the broader PSC;
WHEREAS solidarity across the PSC is urgent with the potential threat of the country becoming “right-to-work” with a new “Friedrichs” case presented to a Trump Supreme Court. Studies have found that “right-to-work” laws end up reducing workers’ wages and their likelihood of receiving benefits;
RESOLVED that the PSC make adjunct equity issues the main priority in the upcoming contract negotiations and have majority adjuncts as part of the bargaining team.
RESOLVED that specific demands and goals should be developed in a sustained conversation between PSC leadership and Adjunct leaders from each campus.
RESOLVED that CUNY bargain this demand in good faith, since higher, more equitable salaries for CUNY adjunct faculty benefit all, especially CUNY undergraduate students, whose learning conditions are their faculty’s working conditions.
The election of Donald Trump to the highest office of government will be a disaster for the labor movement in the United States. Throughout the election season Trump campaigned on a far right wing platform of bigotry and xenophobia. Now that he is set to move in to the White House and Republicans control both houses of Congress, we can expect profound and sustained attacks on our union organizations and our communities.
As members of the labor movement, we have a special responsibility to stand against the policies and rhetoric of a Trump administration. The US working class is made up of people of all colors, religions and identities. Our unions are some of the most diverse institutions in the United States, and Trump would preside over attacks on the groups and communities that our members and their families are a part of.
Workers from Mexico, China, the Philippines or anywhere else are not our enemies and they are not responsible for the loss of union jobs in the United States. It is Wall Street and the corporate elites who are to blame. Collaborating with a Trump presidency and partnering with powerful corporations in an effort to bring back jobs will not make our movement stronger. Those who voted for Donald Trump will be given a dose of bitter medicine when they learn that his presidency will not put American workers first, but instead the interests of the 1%. We cannot allow Trump’s right wing appeals to workers to go unchallenged. Organized labor must unite and provide an alternative to scapegoating through fighting to defend workers’ living standards and putting forward a politics of solidarity. And our unions must organize the unorganized to bring millions more workers into the fold of the labor movement.
Now is the time for our unions to take action and begin to prepare for right to work legislation, legal attacks, and continuing employer demands for give-backs. Rather than give Trump an olive branch or offers of conciliation, our unions should come out swinging on day 1 of the new administration. Donald Trump lost the popular vote, and enjoys no mandate to rule. It is our duty to demonstrate to the world that we will fight back against Trump’s agenda, and to lend our resources to local battles against manifestations of this profoundly anti-worker onslaught.
We call on all unions to join us in Labor Against Trump contingents at any demonstrations or actions across the county on Inauguration Day, including in Washington DC. Our unions will also work locally to oppose Trump’s agenda, defend the communities he intends to attack, and join forces with those who call for solidarity rather than fear and division.
*Note: the chapter will be discussing whether to adopt this at the December 1st chapter meeting.
Kamran Moshef is a PhD student in Political Science.
The election of Donald Trump is not what it seems. There have been a multitude of reactions to Trump’s victory, and most of them heavily feature words like disaster, emergency, defense, reaction, and so on. But the meaning of an event becomes clear only in retrospect, when we look back on it from the future. Our job is to build that future into the one we want, so that we can look back at the election and see it as the beginning of our path to victory.
CUNY, the PSC, and our chapter should not be misled into taking either of the following two roads. The first would be to think that organized labor and academic unions could possibly collaborate with the Trump regime because of Trump’s economic populist stance on investing in infrastructure. We cannot assume these promises will actually be fulfilled. But even more fundamentally, any collaboration, no matter how cautious, would fail to really challenge the reactionary nature of Trump’s appeal to economic populism.
The second dangerous road would be to hunker down, to act on fear and prepare only for defense. The wider labor movement has been in defensive mode for decades now, which reflects our structural weakness but also perpetuates it. At the same time, we don’t want to obscure the enormity of the tasks we face. Make no mistake: Trump and his Wall Street friends are coming for us as workers, as academics, and as activists and organizers. We do need to prepare ourselves for defense, but we can’t stop there.
Instead of either of these two roads, we need to take an approach that they won’t see coming, one that will seem unlikely, and maybe even impossible, until we do it. They already know what the standard approach will be. They know our playbook; they practically wrote it for us. We need to surprise them. People in this country are angry and ready for change. The labor movement and academic workers can be part of offering a real positive vision of how to re-knit the social fabric that has been torn apart by decades of brutal neoliberal capitalism into something better than it was before. And the only way to do this is to refuse any attempt to divide the working class: because the working class is multiracial, it is undocumented, urban and rural, LGBTQ, disabled and differently-abled, Muslim, indigenous.
If we decide that we already know that the election of Trump is a disaster for us, then we fail to notice that this is exactly the time for us to push forward.
Workers recently won an impressive and inspiring victory at Harvard. The National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of graduate student unionization at private universities. The Movement for Black Lives Platform coming out Black Lives Matter included a call for a constitutional right to a fully funded education. Surveys show that Millennials have a more favorable opinion of socialism than capitalism. Media coverage of the crisis in the university and the struggles of adjuncts is becoming more sympathetic. The neoliberal order is coming apart at the seams, and now, we have an opportunity to put forward an alternative; with an ecological crisis of unprecedented proportions, our ability to do so could quite literally determine the fate of the planet.
Academic workers have a unique role to play in these struggles, as we move in and out of conversation with activists, movements and intellectuals, and between our students and the wider society. Universities increasingly play a key role in the political economy of the city. University enrollment is at an all-time high and academic workers are at the center the fight for quality and affordable higher education. We are already important. We need to grasp subjectively, in our perceptions, feelings, and actions, what is already objectively the truth: that we hold a lot of power.
At minimum, we should:
- Make CUNY and the Graduate Center a sanctuary campus;
- Deepen links between struggles of academic workers at CUNY and the GC with the wider labor movement in New York City;
- Center the needs and perspectives of adjuncts in all PSC activity.
The election of Donald Trump is not what it seems. The real meaning of this election won’t be known until we chose how we’re going to react to it. It’s up to us to define its meaning and its historical significance. And that is why we can win: why we have to win.
Dear PSCers –
This is a really rough day. I cried, walking around my neighborhood. I found it hard to make eye contact. I am sad, and like many, I feel fear. There is just no way to sugarcoat the presidency of a billionaire real estate parasite who ran a campaign based on racism and sexism.
But whatever draining feelings you have this morning, please don’t succumb to them. This is a moment when we can decide – not on who our president will be for the next four years (that decision has been made), but whether we will start today, now to build the power we need to make a different future.
We need a fully funded CUNY more than ever. We need to engage our co-workers and our working class students, most of whom are students of color, in this process of building power. Maybe you’ve thought of getting more involved, but felt too busy. Maybe you woke up this morning with the feeling of wanting to do something. Maybe this is the moment to make space for the work necessary to create a different future – for our union, for CUNY, for our city, for our society.
Solidarity & power,
PSC Chapter Chair, CUNY Graduate Center
This month CUNY Rising is kicking off their demand for a Students’ Bill of Rights (see below). This means advocating for, among other things, free tuition and adjunct parity. The PSC is proud to be one of the members of this alliance, and our chapter will hopefully have a strong showing at each of the three kick-off meetings. Please consider attending or or more of them (and RSVP to Sam)!
- Wednesday, November 16th, 6:30pm at BMCC
- Monday, November 21st, 6:30pm at CCNY
- Tuesday, November 22nd, 6pm at Brooklyn Borough Hall
There are five committees that have been formed which any chapter member can join: the Adjunct Organizing Committee, the Contract and Grievance Committee, the Internal Organizing and Steward Committee, Legislative and Elections Committee, the Solidarity Committee. You can find brief descriptions of each of them here. Please reach out the the point person associated with each committee if you’d like to get involved!