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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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:
- 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;
- Genuine job security in the form of a seniority system based on date of original appointment and the number of credits taught over time;
- 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.
Graduate Center Graduate Assistants and Adjuncts of:
the PSC GC Adjunct Committee
the Adjunct Project
Friday, February 24, 12:30-2:30pm, Room 5414; for more information email Travis.
Food and art supplies provided
To prepare for the Graduate Center community joining the March 8 International Women’s Strike/Day of Action, our GC PSC Solidarity Committee will host a dialogue and signs- / banner-making session.
- 12:30-1:30pm: Discuss short readings about how women and allies can enhance the movement against Trump with bolder actions like the March 8 International Women’s Strike, and by centering those most endangered under his regime: women of color, LGBTQ women, immigrant women, Muslim women, and working-class women. Connect this to how women are underhired, underpaid, underpromoted, and mistreated at the Graduate Center and across CUNY — especially as adjuncts — which should be a major concern for our union.
- 1:30-2:30pm: Create posters and a banner for the GC PSC contingent to use at the March 8 event
You can also find this event on Facebook.
Wednesday, March 8, 12:30-1:30pm: rally for women’s work on the GC steps
NYC gathering time / location: TBA
For more information email Travis.
After the January 21 Women’s March amassed 1.2 million people in Washington D.C. and 673 sister protests around the globe (in total almost 5 million people), organizers now call on women and allies to strike on March 8 – International Women’s Day. Dubbed “A Day Without Women,” in reference to the massive 2006 “A Day Without Immigrants” May Day marches, protests will occur across the world, including New York City.
The Graduate Center community, in coordination with the GC PSC Solidarity Committee, will honor this call by holding a rally for women’s work on the Graduate Center steps, and then joining the NYC afternoon march as a campus contingent. We welcome you all to take collective action with us on this historic date.
Did you know that if you adjunct even a single class, you are eligible to enroll in the Teacher’s Retirement System, New York City’s defined benefit pension? Read more about the benefit on the PSC website.
Applying is relatively easy. Here is the application you need to get started.
Also, once you are enrolled, please note that you are eligible for the Tax Deferred Annuity account, which offers an 8% return.
If you have any questions, please reach out to the PSC and ask for the benefits office: 212-354-1252
*Note: If you just learned about this benefit but have been an adjunct professor for years, you are allowed to “buy back” past years of service.
These are bleak times, so we wanted to take a moment to report on the huge strides our chapter has made this academic year.
On top of our regular chapter-wide meetings, we had our chapter’s first ever New Member Orientation meeting this Fall, five committees have been established (anyone can join—more info here!), and between last Spring and this Fall we signed up 402 new members creating four more representatives for our chapter at the PSC Delegate Assembly (in addition to the 300+ that we signed up the year before, which created three additional positions). We also co-hosted events like the one with CFA organizer Jonathan Karpf on adjunct issues and the recent rally to support Saira Rafiee that took place outside of the GC. There is a lot still to do in the second half of the academic year, but for a fuller synopsis of chapter activities from the first half please see the report below.
More Money in the Pockets of Graduate Assistants
The organizational growth of the chapter has made both CUNY and the PSC leadership more responsive to the needs of GAs working for the GC.
- Most GAs received a $750 contract ratification bonus in the fall compared with Adjuncts with a similar workload who, unfortunately, received only $250.
- After meeting with Chase Robinson he agreed to maintain the current level of stipends when our wages go up this month and again in April. (Compare this with most 2nd-5th year Science Fellows, now paid through four-year colleges and not in our chapter, whose contractual raise may be clawed back by a reduction in other funding.) He also agreed that next year’s admissions will enter at the new GCF first year rate of $26,128.
What if you think you didn’t get the right Retroactive Pay?
- If you feel CUNY paid you the wrong amount or are just unsure, here’s a three step process:
Building a Fight for a Strong 2017 Contract in the Context of Trump
In an effort to spearhead the next contract negotiation and have greater participation in the process, the chapter has been a leader in identifying and mobilizing for a stronger and more inclusive contract fight at the GC and in the PSC as a whole.
- Circulated a four-point contract plan at our December Chapter meeting centered around part-timer issues, support for CUNY Rising, preparation for a potential strike, and outreach to progressive labor forces. Began discussion within the chapter of wage and non-wage demands.
- Proposed a “First Steps” resolution to the PSC with tangible steps including an immediate one-day planning “retreat,” quick constitution of an inclusive Negotiating Committee, and contract-focused meetings in all chapters. As a result of this work, the PSC Delegate Assembly adopted the heart of our proposal, and this full day planning meeting will take place in late February or early March.
- Chapter activists are helping to create a PSC-wide survey of working conditions to better guide the formulation of demands and negotiations.
- The Chapter formulated a change to PSC Constitution that will allow GAs and Adjuncts who change campuses to vote and run for office in their new chapter without the current waiting periods of four and twelve months respectively. This resolution was discussed at last month’s Delegate Assembly meeting. A subcommittee will work on it and then it will be up for a vote next month.
Internal Organizing and Outreach
Neither the fights described above or below are possible without building the number and training of activists and increasing the total number of GC-PSC members. The GC chapter has worked closely with HEOs in our shared goal of signing up new PSC members at the GC, regardless of title. This cooperative work has resulted in large chapter meetings, shared mobilizing efforts for last contract, committee work, membership drive and political actions.
- An active presence at incoming orientation days meant we signed up most incoming 1st years as members.
- The total membership increase means we have tripled the number of our representatives at the Delegate Assembly, beginning in April.
- Public outreach through social media – the GC has a robust presence on
Facebook: The Graduate Center PSC
- We have made moderate progress on developing a departmental shop steward structure.
- Discussions of workload issues has been ongoing at both the Departmental and GC-wide levels, with some success. We were able to establish that, in 2017-18, GAs at Hunter will only teach two sections, but were unable to get that change for the spring semester.
- We have taken first steps to building organization at our affiliated campuses, the School of Professional Studies and the School of Public Health and held our first Labor-Management meeting at SPS.
- We successfully changed the three-year appointment process for adjuncts at SPS and, after months of wrangling, we procured the release of a report on water safety there.
- Discussions of what, concretely, it would mean to be a sanctuary campus are proceeding with Chase Robinson.
- At each chapter meeting and each labor management committee meeting HEOs have given updates and made plans to implement the new provisions of the contract that are relevant to their titles.
The chapter has been active in mobilization and solidarity work with other chapters and other unions.
- We are building strong ties to the Baruch and Brooklyn chapters and working with them to organize adjuncts there.
- We have been active in the union’s official adjunct organization, and have put forward proposals that we believe will soon be adopted which will concretely strengthen adjunct organizing and political power within the union.
- We held two meetings at CCNY to begin organizing the 2nd-5th year Science Fellows there in cooperation with the union chapter there.
- We had initial discussions with Non-Teaching Adjuncts on other campuses in an attempt to better understand the issue of “Grader Pay.” A grievance about incorrect grader pay at Baruch and CCNY has been stalled by management for most of the semester.
- Along with several other PSC chapters and the Adjunct Project, we hosted Jonathan Karpf of the CFA for a discussion on winning pay parity for adjuncts.
- The chapter has mobilized to defend our membership from attacks by the Trump administration, including having a robust presence at the Women’s March and co-organizing a well-attended rally for PSC member Saira Rafiee.
 We are seeking to work with those other chapters to organize these former chapter members.