Andrea Ades Vásquez is the Managing Director of the Graduate Center’s New Media Lab, as well as Associate Director of the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning. She is the HEO chapter chair; this is her letter to HEOs on the contract. You can see our Proposed Contract Discussion page for more.
I hope that you are enjoying the start of summer and are able to take some well-earned vacation time!
I write as the newly elected chair of the HEO chapter of the Professional Staff Congress. I am also pleased to have served as one of the HEOs on the bargaining team for this contact (along with Iris DeLutro, Vice President for cross-campus units).
Ordinarily, I would simply send a message of greetings and enthusiasm for the work I will be doing with HEOs in the coming years. Over the past several months I was excited to have visited over a dozen campuses but they were not ordinary “getting to know you” visits. As you well know, we were in the midst of an epic fight to finally get a good contract! I spoke and listened to hundreds of HEOs as well as members of all PSC constituencies. As a higher education officer since 2000, I have never witnessed such solidarity, organization, and militancy before. From a mass meeting of over 100 HEOs at LaGuardia to the strike authorization drive at the Graduate Center, to the inclusive participatory meeting at Medgar Evers, to our vocal participation at the delegate assembly, HEOs have been there every step of the way!
WHY VOTE YES!
Because of the collective mass actions of PSC members, we now have a contract in hand to ratify! I have heard from so many HEOs about how delighted they are that we won good retroactive pay, “non-economic” advances, and no give-backs. While there were times we fought alongside CUNY to increase the state’s funding for the university, we also had to fight against the administration’s vision for CUNY. We certainly did not get all that we wanted or deserve. However, we achieved raises at the level of other city employees and made other significant advances. And along the way, we built tremendous union power. You may have heard some PSC adjunct members urging a “no” vote because we were not able to close the wide gap between full time and part time salaries. It is unconscionable that CUNY refuses to address this despite years of struggle. Like many of you, I went to many a demonstration and many a trip to Albany demanding that CUNY and the City take responsibility for adjunct health care. We finally did win that early in this round of bargaining. Over 2,000 adjuncts benefit from that and more stand to benefit from the longer appointments we also won. While we did not get the funds from Albany or from CUNY to raise salaries sufficiently, we did build the political will to continue the fight for further improvements for all members as we move ahead. Your “YES” vote allows us to do this!
WHAT IS SPECIFICALLY FOR HEOs IN THIS CONTRACT?
In my current position in the HEO series since 2000, I often hear dismay over not being able to rise in title or salary despite years of excellent work for the university. In addition to the gains that will benefit all PSCers, in this round of negotiations we made structural changes to the process of reclassification and also created a new path to increased salaries. Until now, any change in the volume of work you are assigned could not be considered when applying for reclassification to a higher title. Now it can, recognizing that a major increase in the amount of work you do can transform the job you do. Also, until now, many HEO Associates were ineligible for reclassification if a full HEO already worked in the office or department. That will no longer be the case. We will also be using newly-constituted labor-management committees to accept applications for a $2,500 addition to the base pay for HEOs at the top step for at least one year (except those already in the top title), who demonstrate their expanded responsibilities and excellent performance. The final decision on adding the $2500 will ultimately be up to management (via the HEO screening committee), but for the first time we have an opportunity to increase our salaries rather than being forever stuck at the top step. Assuring proper implementation will take diligence on our part but we will pursue this until these changes are made and members can fully benefit from these advances.
It has already been extremely exciting to work with a new cohort of HEO delegates from all campuses. We plan to keep up the momentum we have built over the past couple of years and enforce this contract and get ready for the next one! Vote YES and let us know if you would like to join a committee of HEOs on your own campus to strengthen the chapter and the union.
Andrea Ades Vásquez,
HEO Chapter Chair