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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

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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