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October 19th Delegate Assembly Notes

Delegate Assembly (DA) Notes—Contract Demands (notes from Chloe Asselin)

On Thursday, October 19, the PSC leadership presented delegates with possible contract demands to vote on. Our contract expires on November 30, 2017, and we need to start bargaining for a new contract. Delegates were given 48 hours before the meeting to read the demands, which were created by the bargaining team with advice from different committees that rank-and-file members participated in.

The contract discussion went from 7-9pm. Some delegates raised concerns which were then answered by members of the bargaining team, other delegates presented amendments to the demands. All 8 amendments presented to the DA were introduced by Adjuncts and Graduate Assistants regarding Adjunct and GA concerns. 6 of the amendments were introduced by members of the Graduate Center chapter. Every amendment was voted down by the DA, which is made up of mostly full-time faculty and staff. Some of the votes around Adjunct and GA concerns were close and warranted card counts.  Many of the same people spoke multiple times throughout the evening. At 9pm, with 7 rank-and-file members standing at the microphone, a motion was made to cut the speaking list and move straight to the contract demand vote. The motion was approved [see approved bargaining agenda here] and the rank-and-file members at the microphone were not given the ability to speak. After the vote, President Bowen announced that the current contract’s expiration date is November 30th and that this will be a day of action for the PSC on different campuses and city-wide.

DA minutes

President Bowen

  • We need to use collective bargaining to improve teaching and learning at CUNY. Past contracts have won the basic gains we have today. Management, NYC mayor, and NYS governor not advocates of CUNY. Goal of contract is combining individual gains with structural changes.
  • Bold moves in contract demands according to President Bowen:
    • 5% salary increases for all
    • $7000 per course minimum for adjuncts
    • Move towards consolidating gains made in other rounds of bargaining- structural changes for HEOs, full-time teaching loads, and 3-year appointments for adjuncts
  • What’s not in the demands:
    • Demands for what we are currently grieving. If grieving, we are saying that we have a right and deserve to have it. If we put is as demand, we undermine the grievance and admit we don’t have it as a right.
    • Might be less ambitious demand than what is already there
    • Management will say not permissible at bargaining table
    • Priorities made by bargaining team
  • The only way we win is by fighting together. Balance in contract demands for all titles in CUNY. Fighting for whole city, not just ourselves.

Members of the bargaining team highlighted parts of the contract demands:

Andrea Ades Vasquez – Salary

  • Spoke in favor of $7000 per course for adjuncts. PSC fought for adjunct health insurance. All titles were on board. 1500 adjuncts have received 3-year appointments this past year. HEOs know job insecurity because HEOs have to wait 8 years for job security.
  • It will take many campaigns to win but union is on board for $7000 per course.

Nivedita Majumdar – Educational technology

  • Demands around educational technology. The politics of austerity diminish our compensation, erode our power as workers, and decrease quality of education. Online courses create multi-tiers of education. As you go down in economic privilege, educational technology becomes substitute for faculty. Removes power from faculty to shape curriculum.
  • Provision against outsourcing of online courses
  • Faculty should be able to choose modality of teaching course
  • Faculty must be informed of loss of intellectual property rights

Luke Elliott-Negri – Union dues, membership information, and reassigned time

  • Janus. Not in contract but we need to organize on our campuses, sign on fee payers, steward structures, activate membership
  • Demands include control over dues check-off, DC37 has had their membership information FOILed so PSC wants to know if PSC membership lists are FOILed, access to new hire orientations, and increase reassigned time for union work.

Contract Demand Discussion:

  • Things in last contract not implemented: Reduced teaching load for full-time faculty. Librarians off for 40 days but no librarian can ever do that because not enough librarian faculty,
    • Progress has been made in full-time teaching load for faculty
    • All library faculty can take that time and should report to union if don’t get it
  • $7000 per course. Need to activate 11,000 adjuncts. Need MOE paid. Need whole union as one demand.
  • $7000 per course. How does this affect science faculty who have to teach 6 hours so twice the amount of hours?
    • $7000 is minimum so will be proportional to size of course
  • Adjunct CLTs.
    • Adjunct CLTs are in different universe than instructional. Need to get job security before expanding. Demand has provision on CLT health insurance
  • Amendment presented by Adjuncts: $7000 per course for adjuncts great but need job security too. Non-economic demands- seniority system by date of hire that gives seniority rights to courses, revisions of 3-year hire needed but too many adjuncts will not qualify (Vote fails 48-79).
    • Speaking Against: seniority has been demand in the past. Has been argued in the past. CUNY very much opposed. Have been through two rounds of bargaining unable to achieve this. 3-year appointment was a breakthrough. Need to solidify 3-year appointment and not have diversions.
    • Speaking in Favor: 3-year was breakthrough but excludes so many people. We have 12500 adjuncts and only 1500 on 3-year appointments. Good start but we need to have seniority on the table.
    • Speaking Against: 3-year appointments are structural change at CUNY. Ongoing and more adjuncts will fall into the pool going forward. In this contract, demands improve 3-year. Seniority system in most unions no-brainer, but complicated with diverse pool of adjuncts. Will have perverse effects. If lose a course, lose healthcare.
    • President Bowen said that some of the issues about adjuncts not eligible for 3-year, this contract seeks to address. Demand 10 out of 14 semesters rather than 10 consecutive semesters to get appointment.
  • Salary differential for HEOs. How will changes affect HEO salary differential and promotion? There is nothing about promotion in the demands. At City College, salary differential denied because of lack of money.
    • Management uses excuses of lack of money to not honor HEO assignment differentials. This needs to be put in the contract and then we need to push management to deliver on it.
    • Hunter has said no salary differentials for HEO.
  • Clarification: Department chairs are complicit in hiring adjuncts. $7000 is important but what about process. Usually win amount of money in contract fight and divide it up. 5% for all and $7000 per adjunct both a lot of money. What will get prioritized?
    • President Bowen- pattern bargaining throughout city. We have to use force of bargaining to say there needs to be infusion into CUNY’s budget to pay for salaries for part-timers. Increase of 1-2-3% seen as incremental. 50-100% is major change and that is what we need. CUNY management budgets on underpaid faculty. Use leverage of bargaining to demand something that exceeds demand. Also fighting on city and state budget. Approach of adding, not subtracting.
  • Educational technology- Chancellor is pushing for 25% to be online. Faculty underpaid for course development. Only paid to teach course and not to develop course. Faculty at BMCC attended 9-week course not paid for. BMCC decided 50-50 ownership for the course.
    • Work for hire means that if you are hired to do work outside of regular work and if that work is subject to copyright laws. Faculty create courses and have ownership. Work for hire means you lose ownership of that course. How does 50-50 ownership work at BMCC? A lot of new territory so in contract so that university knows practices are under scrutiny.
    • A lot of demands in Edtech. None of those demands won in last contract. Faculty attending courses for free is violation of current contract and is a grievance.
    • Arguing for intellectual property was lost in courts.
  • Amendment presented by Adjuncts: 3-year appointments. Change from mandatory to discretionary. Up to adjuncts to decide. Against up and out clause so that adjuncts don’t get fired (motion fails).
    • Speaking against: would you make tenure discretionary? Will be abused because adjuncts have no power.
    • Speaking for: Protect adjuncts who could be fired because up for 3-year and don’t get it. If go up for 3-years and don’t get it (can be subjective), can lose your job. Doesn’t undermine provision. Some of 1500 adjuncts were not all senior adjuncts. Not grandfathering.
    • Speaking against: Discretionary takes power from part-timer and gives it to chair. Chair can use it as leverage to part-time faculty. This is structural change and changes come with tradeoffs. Opting out of job security provision.
  • Graduate Assistant demands. Did not happen automatically. We went from 13-67% GA union membership. Got 600 respondents on survey. Point of clarification about stipends being reduced. Stipends are work related money because GC makes it that way. We must take whole fellowship and cannot take only part of it.
  • Adjunctification undermines full-time and undermines our education. Really need to center $7000 per course and job security as non-negotiable demand.
    • PSC fought for health insurance and 3-year provision more than anything.
  • Amendment presented by Graduate Assistants: 27a. Language in current contract does not match what GC does. Contract says graduate students are only eligible for 3-years of funding. Most of those packages are for 5-years. Tuition only 5 years for graduate students and takes longer particularly at CUNY (motion fails).
    • Speaking Against: President Bowen: this is complicated. Article 11 in contract about GAs is badly defined. That whole language needs to be updated. The practice now is to ignore that provision that it is only 3-years of funding. Some interest on management in changing that. CUNY management may request this. Could undermine our claim that the past practice of 5-years should stand and same sentiment might be coming from management.
    • Speaking For: Not just about changing the language from 3 years to 5 years but also the current contract says that after 3 years you can get additional 2 years by jumping through hoops. Leave that language in place to 5 years with addition of 2 years. Past practice is fine, but we want to expand to 7 years.
    • Speaking Against: Tactical question. Brought it to President Robinson at GC. Bargaining team educated and on same page. Don’t need to change it in PSC contract.
  • Amendment presented by Graduate Assistants: 28b. Change to non-teaching adjuncts 150 hours 6 of previous 10 semesters rather than 6 consecutive semesters because health issues, pregnancies, family time means sometimes teach over the summer (motion fails).
    •  Speaking Against: NTAs want tuition waivers. Don’t have access at all. That is focus.
    • Speaking Against: Borrowing language from instructional adjuncts in this provision to make it more effective to win. If change language, will be more difficult.
  • 27d- what does “certain provisions” mean? GAs want step increases. Language became more vague and step increases not there.
  • Amendment presented by Graduate Assistants: 27c. Want adequate funding for all graduate students. At the moment multiple tier system exists in departments where only certain students get fully funded. Add “adequate funding for all PhD students”. The Amendment was withdrawn after discussion.
    • Speaking Against: Problem with word “students” because we bargain for employees
    • Speaking For: Fight for all students because then all become employees. Make committee to discuss this.
    • Speaking Against: Just demand and just objective. Question is what is hook? Management hates committees. It is a lot of work to get them to form a committee. Those issues should emerge when we constitute committee. But adding it will be obstacle.
    • A Full-time faculty suggested that the Amendment as constituted weakens current demand. Make it a new demand.
      • Speaking Against: We don’t represent graduate students. Trump board will overturn fact that graduate employees can organize. We don’t want to undermine that we represent graduate employees. Political demand rather than contract demand.
  • Three Amendments presented by Graduate Assistants and Adjuncts where adjuncts don’t have parity with full-timers (motion fails).
    • 1. 24.2b No other contractual titles have six consecutive semesters to move a step penalizing those that do research or have child care issues. Move to 6 semesters rather than 6 consecutive semesters.
      • Speaking For: A lot of people lose their step increases because they have to start over again.
      • Question: Can anyone take a leave and still have a step?
      • Speaker Against: takes away from fight for $7000 per course.
    • 2. Compensation for course cancellations within two weeks prior to the beginning of the semester. Cancellation within this time period can result in a loss of health benefits.
      • Speaking For: Asking for only 2 weeks for compensation for loss of a class. 2 weeks is nothing.
      • Speaking Against: 3-year appointments mean adjuncts do have to be compensated. Registration is not closed 2 weeks in advance to allow more students to register, so it’s not possible. It works both ways. The fact that more students register is an opportunity for more adjuncts to get hired, but may also not produce that.
      • Speaker Against: takes away from fight for $7000 per course.
    • 3. 6.3 Part-time staff cannot have release time.
      • Speaking Against: Given stipends. Paid in stipends, not release time.
      • Speaking For: Not equivalent of teaching a course so part-timers lose health insurance for doing this work if don’t teach 2 courses.
      • Speaking For: Some adjuncts teach 4 courses and do union work on top of that.
      • Speaking Against: Reassigned time paid by CUNY and adjuncts not paid if not teaching. Thus, the union pays for that time.
  • At 9pm, with 7 rank-and-file members standing at the microphone, a motion was made to cut the speaking list and move straight to the contract demand vote. The motion was approved and the rank-and-file members at the microphone were not given the ability to speak.

Contract Demands were Approved

President Bowen announced that the current contract’s expiration date is November 30th and that this will be a day of action for the PSC on different campuses and city-wide.

October 12th EC Meeting Minutes

Minutes from chapter’s Executive Committee Meeting – 10/12/17

  • Planning for upcoming meetings at SPS – Susan – 20 min
    • Gerry will publicize, Anh will make flyer
    • Jennifer will send email to EC to mobilize to attend Brown-Bag luncheon/”chapter” mtg
      • EC members who can make 10/30 12:30 mtg 119 W. 31 St.: Gerry, Andrea, Travis, Anh, Jennifer, Susan
    • Susan will draft agenda (recommitment campaign, Janus, demands & contract fight, health & safety concerns, ways to get involved)
    • Handouts: contract wins for HEOs & adjuncts
    • Sign-ups to get involved: organizing convos w/ co-workers, ConCon, MOE
    • Emails campaign: “did you know you’re not a PSC union member?”
    • Marc will attend faculty meeting for Law & Immigration department (Wed 11/8 6pm)
    • Check COCAL for resources on organizing online adjuncts (telemarketing structure?)
    • Gerry, Andrea & Susan will get together to work on video messaging, possible GC Youtube channel?
    • EC meetings in the future will reserve time to organizing SPS adjuncts until we can figure out a way to make it more rank-and-file based organizing
  • Planning union meetings at Macaulay, Murphy & SPH – tabled
    • Identify activists on these campuses who are doing some sort of organizing & link them to GC organizing & ask them to be de facto EC members (Anh will follow up)
    • Staff organizers have spent some time on these campuses
  • WAC Fellows grievance – Marc – 7 min
    • WAC Fellows on almost all campuses required to work 15 hrs/wk, in violation of GA-B work requirements
  • Sponsoring a proposal for DA regarding membership campaign – Anh – 10 min
    • Andrea: we need to figure out how we’re currently doing to see how much need is left; want to avoid assumption implicit that PSC is not doing enough or nothing has happened, HEOs have gone door-to-door & tabled; the biggest ask w/ this proposal is hiring new ppl → need to simplify this to focus on asking ourselves “how are we doing?” rather than just saying more $$; members are not stepping up sufficiently so membership campaign falls on shoulders of staff; sending temp organizer is not as effective as someone who’s rooted & has built long-term relationships; we have to permanently function diff after Janus & this proposal may give us a false sense of security & doesn’t create a fundamental change that’s needed after Janus
    • Luke: according to data, we are doing this at the GC but it needs to happen more systematically across the campuses; we need something to start the convo; great one-time investment even if its not perfect
    • Susan: ppl hired to do this would not be outside ppl but current members (→ **clarify this on the proposal?**); allows us to build capacity among existing members; pose pay & number of hires as **“a possible example”** so that there’s flexibility w/in the proposal
    • Maya: would be helpful to hold ppl more accountable to organizing work; many feel organizing is a stressor on time so they need to be compensated; **add something about how to distribute 25 hirees**; frame it as galvanizing existing members; liaisons are not under purview of Org Dept…Will DA/EC resist on this technicality?
    • Came from Laura Kaplan, grad student in Urban Ed, adjunct at BCC & former union organizer, who couched this proposal in terms of internal organizing
    • Travis: shouldn’t exclude wider **“CUNY community members”** as potential organizers who would be assets (amend language to read “PSC members & CUNY community”
    • EC voted to endorse proposal with **amended changes** above: 6 in favor, 2 abstained
  • Updates & approach toward 7k campaign – tabled
  • Bargaining update & other preparations for next DA on 10/19 – Luke – 15 min
    • Bargaining demands will be voted on so we must all be there to ensure quorum to vote on new EC position and demands
    • BT has never spoken about what info can be shared w/ members so need to find out
    • Proposal that our chapter EC members who are on the BT release demands to be voted on well before DA
    • CUNY DSA spoke about working w/ PSC on contract demand for 7k → will reach out to Luke to ask Qs & get plugged in
  • Other concerns, announcements & updates – everyone – 3 min
    • How do we follow up on L-M promises? Can we do more than just asking at the following L-M what has happened?
      • Marc, Anh, etc. will come up with a plan for EC to discuss next month

September 25th Labor-Management Meeting Notes

Anh’s notes from the Graduate Center’s Labor-Management Meeting – 9/25/17

In attendance from Management: Chase Robinson (GC President), Jane Herbert (President’s Chief of Staff), Lynnette Phillips (GC Labor Designee)

In attendance from Labor:  Luke Elliott-Negri (Chapter Chair), Marc Kagan (Delegate), Anh Tran (Chapter Vice Chair), Andrea Vasquez (HEO Chapter Chair), Zee Dempster (Welfare Fund Delegate)

  1. Putting Graduate Assistant issues in upcoming contract negotiations on GC admin’s radar
  • We want option for two extra years of Grad Assistantship renewal beyond current five
    • Requesting GC admin signal support to CUNY Central
      • Admin: need to talk to Provost & Dean, but looks reasonable at face value
    • Need to clean up vague contract language around approval process (currently 3 years + 1 + 1)
      • Admin: agreed
    • We want increase GA-B annual workload cap to 270 classroom teaching hours (up from 240)
      • Admin: concerned about balance between excess workload and increasing financial support for students
  • Grad Assistants who teach have too large of classes –> onerous towards time-to-completion of degrees, equity issues among different GAs, no contract language on class caps other than protections against “excessive workload”; perhaps “cap” could be better framed
    • Admin: hard to get buy-in from the different work campuses
  • We want tuition waiver for Level III students past five years (a top 3 issue from the GA survey, student government survey research shows average GC student takes 7.7 years to complete PhD)
    • Admin: is this the best use of resources?; incentivizes students to slow down time-to-completion; Jane will dig up costs of this but it will be $1-2 million, a cost that will get passed onto the GC rather than being absorbed by CUNY Central per past practice of passing strains of tuition waiver budgets to GC (no separate budget allocation from CUNY for waivers), 3 years ago when new packages were negotiated with CUNY, GC charged $540,000-570,000 for tuition wiavers
  1. Update on getting PSC office space; how is office space generally allocated & who makes the decisions?
  • Admin: we found a shared space available 10/15, Provost makes the decision
  • Followed up w/ Provost & people whose offices we are sharing with, but latter say it is a broom closet with no space for storage or privacy necessary for grievance meetings → PSC GC is now exploring other options
  1. Revising admission and yearly financial aid award letters to reflect actual financial allocations (with student fees & contractual raises) and work requirements (hours & nature of work from year to year); Provost’s office has not gotten back to DSC & PSC GC to have a meeting about this
  • Admin: will follow up with Provost
  1. Review Science Fellows issues
  • Science Fellows met w/ Dean Brumberg about job titles, workload, paying issues, fixing inequities & regularizing of Science Fellows’ work experience
    • Admin: Science Dean Brumberg has spoken to Research Fund, Principal Investigators & Lynnette (GC Labor Designee) to address the issues he feels like he has some influence over & President’s Office will follow up with the Dean; problem is PIs are so different & will say they don’t have enough funding to guarantee X years of funding to students; President will put these issues on the agenda of the university-wide Bench Sciences Advisory Committee that has the power to address these issues, but no promises on quick progress
  • Will GC admin ask Chancellor to extend new $29,000 Science Fellow packages to currently-enrolled students in their 3rd-5th years?
    • Admin: will ask Brumberg about cost, but will probably amount to $1-1.5 mill spread across the campuses
  • Is it theoretically possible for the GC administratively handle the Science Fellows & be reimbursed by Research Fund?
    • Admin: Can’t redesign multi-year system from scratch but if we handled the Science Fellows then we could address some disparities
  1. Faculty with salaries (180%) above base : how many exist? How many are exempt from all wage caps per 2016 CUNY-PSC Memorandum of Agreement?
  • Admin: none exist on this campus; GC has slowed down hiring due to lack of budget
  1. Social Welfare Doctoral Program’s denial of tuition reimbursement for students unable to take adjunct positions
  • Admin: this is the case because Social Welfare is under Hunter’s domain, we don’t want to connect university service to tuition because folks might want to work full-time while going to school, which is more true of programs like business or social welfare or counseling; the Social Welfare tuition reimbursement system is vestigial of older systems
  1. Putting it on the radar of GC that in regards to administrative staffing of new departments/programs, full-time positions are becoming part-time & non-union when budget cuts occur
  2. We thank the GC for smoothly implementing new salary differential for HEOs (especially compared to clunky roll-out on other campuses)

September 19th Chapter Meeting Minutes

Minutes from GC Chapter Meeting – 9/19/17

We had our first chapter meeting of the 2017-2018 academic year on September 19. The meeting started at 12:40pm.

The meeting began with a report from PSC President Barbara Bowen about our contract ending on November 30th. She explained how the PSC bargaining team along with its supporting committees came up with our union’s list of contract demands. Barbara pointed members to the survey results published in the most recent Clarion. The demands will be presented and voted on by PSC members at the October 19th Delegate Assembly (please come!). If you have a pressing demand you want to discuss, please contact your representative on the bargaining team.

Following Barbara, Gerry Martini spoke about the need for a social media campaign to start pressuring #CUNY now to bargain for the contract and to push Governor Cuomo to sign the Maintenance of Effort bill (MOE). Anh Tran also encouraged all members to speak to at least 2 other people about the contract so that members are aware of the contract fight when we escalate the fight. Andrea Vasquez, chair of the HEO chapter, reported on HEO contract demands.

Isaac Jabola-Carolus made an announcement about the Graduate Student survey results emphasizing that the number one demand for Graduate Students is $7,000 per course for adjuncts. Chris Natoli made an announcement about the Rally for 7K happening on September 26.

We then passed a box around to raise money for the Spectrum workers’ Striking Families Hardship Fund. There are currently 1,800 members of IBEW Local 3 at Spectrum Communications in NY and NJ on strike to defend their healthcare and pensions. They have been without a contract since 2013. The strike has now entered its 6th month and striking workers need help. We raised $164 for the Striking Families Hardship Fund. Please consider donating to the fund.

In the next section of the meeting, Marc Kagan presented the list of issues we will be presenting to CUNY management during our labor-management meeting on September 25. If you are interested in attending a Labor Management meeting or getting involved, please contact Marc at marckagan@aol.com.

In the final section of the meeting, Chloe Asselin presented a process for passing Resolutions in our GC chapter meeting. After much discussion, members chose to:
  • Section 1. Change from seven days to three days
  • Section 3. Remove this clause
  • Move clause 5 up so it appears earlier as the second clause.
  • Add new clause about the GC-EC taking resolutions adopted at chapter meetings which affects the entirety of the PSC to the delegate assembly
  • Convene a committee that will look into ways to reach quorum other than having 10% of membership at chapter meetings
Meeting adjourned at 2pm.

Fall 2017 Contract Fight Prep

Questions or concerns about the upcoming contract negotiations? Contact someone within your title to talk about contract issues! These folks are on active at the GC chapter, are on the union’s Bargaining Committee, and are delegates in the Delegate Assembly (which will vote on contract demands).

The following contract committees have been formed:

  • Continuing Education faculty needs
  • HEO advancement adjustments and other HEO demands
  • CLT needs, Graduate Assistant needs
  • Adjunct three-year appointments improvements
  • Adjuncts, teaching and non-teaching: salary and conditions
  • Educational Technology provisions
  • Grievance and Discipline provisions
  • Membership information reporting and protections
  • Professional School needs
  • EOCs and Hunter Campus Schools needs
  • Department Chair needs


We can start pressuring CUNY now to come to the table to negotiate this contract sooner rather than later. Six years late on the last contract was absolutely unacceptable and cannot happen again.

Governor Cuomo has yet to sign the Maintenance of Effort bill. This funds the state’s portion of CUNY and SUNY mandatory cost increases; without it colleges have to make up the loss of funding elsewhere.

Twitter is generally a public medium so it’s a good place to start pushing CUNY and the Governor.

Some Key Twitter Handles:

CUNY Central: @cunynewswire Chancellor Milliken: @jbmilliken Governor Cuomo: @NYGovCuomo PSC: @PSC_CUNY Chapter: @psccunygc

Potential Contract Tweet Examples:

  • Hey @jbmilliken, the @PSC_CUNY contract expires this semester. Don’t make us wait 6yrs for a contract this time! #CUNY
  • Classes at @cunynewswire mostly taught by exploited adjuncts. End poverty wages & support $7k per course in the next #CUNY contract!
  • @cunynewswire/@jbmilliken shouldn’t expect @PSC_CUNY to wait another 6yrs for a contract. Shameful treatment of faculty & staff. #CUNY
  • #CUNY calls itself the “American Dream Machine” but for adjuncts it’s a nightmare. @jbmilliken, we need $7k in this @PSC_CUNY contract!

Potential MOE Tweet Examples:

Bottom line: Be creative! Let CUNY know inaction on negotiations will not be tolerated, and make sure to use their accounts and the #CUNY hashtag so that your voice is amplified. (Plus then we’re using management’s own marketing tools in service of labor.) Tell personal stories if they fit. And thanks for helping share the petition to get Cuomo to sign the MOE!


Finally, we also want to make sure we’re talking to our PSC colleagues about the contract fight. Please commit to speaking with at least two colleagues between now and the next chapter meeting about the struggle to come. To win the best contract we need every member to be active in the fight!

Our Union, Our Contract: Results

From August 24 to September 1, over 600 Graduate Center PhD students voted to decide which issues to prioritize in the upcoming PSC-CUNY contract negotiations. Below are the results, followed by a description of the process.

Total Ballots Cast: 613 (approximately 200 online, 400 in person)

 Write-in Issues

  • The most popular write-in issue was: Extend health insurance to all PhD students, whether or not they have GA appointments (4 submissions).
  • Other issues included: Relax the 9/6 rule for adjuncts; Additional pay for class overtallies; Reduce student fees; Expand childcare; Improve health and vision plans for GAs and adjuncts; Reduce racial disparities at all faculty levels; Better enforce GA workload limits; Racism toward students on the part of faculty; Raise adjunct pay to $10,000 per course; Create paid office hour for teaching fellows who also teach as adjuncts; Create centralized CUNY adjunct job listings.

Voter Breakdown

  • 72.5% were Graduate Assistants
  • 27.5% were PhD students without GA appointments
  • In terms of ballots cast, the top departments were:
    • Sociology (55)
    • Political Science (41)
    • Psychology (38)
    • Anthropology (37)
    • English (35)
    • Art History (31)
    • History (29)
    • Comp Lit, Music (28)
    • Biology (27)
    • Urban Ed, Physics (23)

About the Process

The Professional Staff Congress (PSC) is the labor union representing some 27,000 CUNY faculty, staff, and graduate student workers. The pay, benefits, and work conditions of most PhD students are determined by a contract that the PSC negotiates with the CUNY administration, New York City, and New York State. The contract expires this November and will be renegotiated in the coming months.

To identify issue priorities for the upcoming contract, the PSC established advisory committees for various positions in the union, including full-time faculty, Higher Education Offices (HEOs), adjuncts, and Graduate Assistants. Volunteers who joined the Graduate Assistant contract advisory committee decided that all PhD students should have a say in identifying which issues to prioritize. Looking to democratic processes such as participatory budgeting, the advisory committee developed a ballot of 19 issues relevant to PhD students and held a week-long vote at the start of the semester.

The results have been submitted to the PSC Bargaining Team to convey the priorities of GC PhD student workers. The Graduate Assistant advisory committee has also worked to turn the top issues into more concrete contract demands to share with the Bargaining Team.

What’s next? The Bargaining Team will review the outcomes from this GC vote, but also from the HEO, adjunct, and other advisory committees. Then it will propose an aggregate list of demands to the PSC-wide Delegate Assembly, the union’s governing body. The Delegate Assembly will discuss and determine the final list of demands at its October 19 meeting. All PSC members are welcome to attend. After that comes the bargaining between the union and the CUNY administration. We’ll need to keep up the pressure to win our demands, so please be ready! To join the contract committee at the GC, please email lukeelliottnegri@gmail.com.

Note: All PhD students enrolled at the Graduate Center were eligible to vote in this process. The Graduate Assistant contract advisory committee made this decision because GC PhD students often move between roles during their programs and nearly all are at some point affected by the PSC-CUNY contract. Please note, however, that only CUNY employees in the bargaining unit can become PSC members, and that only members can participate in formal union decisions, such as PSC elections and strike authorization votes. If you are an adjunct or Graduate Assistant but have not yet become a PSC member, be sure to sign a union card or fill out the online membership form!

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