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Contract Ratification

Below is the text from the emailed announcement that proposed contract with CUNY has been ratified by PSC members:

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Colleagues:

I’m proud to announce that the 25,000 faculty and professional staff represented by PSC will receive long-overdue raises because an overwhelming 94 percent majority of PSC members voted to ratify the new PSC-CUNY contract.

The agreement provides 10.41 percent in compounded salary increases over a period of slightly more than seven years, from October 20, 2010 through November 30, 2017. The raises will be retroactive to April 20, 2012 and will be paid to employees who worked at CUNY between then and now even if they have retired or left CUNY. The contract includes more than three times the back pay originally offered by CUNY, won because PSC members stood up to management and to Albany. (Use this online tool to estimate your retroactive pay.)

It took a militant, public campaign and strike authorization vote to win the salary increases. At the same time, the campaign built the leverage needed to negotiate breakthrough provisions on adjunct job security, full-time faculty workload, and other gains that will improve teaching and learning conditions at CUNY. It also includes a signing bonus for current employees.

A record-breaking 72 percent of eligible voters participated in the contract ratification vote. The level of engagement is unprecedented in PSC ratification votes; it is a testament to our shared vision of a better university and evidence of your commitment to member-to-member organizing.

The contract consolidates gains won by the union between the expiration of the last contract in 2010 and the end of the most recent negotiations–including adjunct health insurance on the NYC plan, paid parental leave, and increased funding for faculty research grants. It also introduces a new provision for multi-year appointments for eligible teaching adjuncts at CUNY. The health insurance and multi-year appointments represent major steps toward greater professionalism and equity in the treatment of adjuncts, providing increased stability for academic departments and guaranteed income and accrued sick days for adjuncts on three-year appointments. More than 86  percent of adjunct faculty who took part in the ratification vote voted “yes.”

In addition, the full-time faculty now have a contractual commitment and a timetable to restructure the teaching load to ensure that they have the time to mentor students and to conduct research. Professional staff in “non-promotional” HEO titles have gained opportunities for advances in pay and title.

Thank you for organizing, turning out to dozens of rallies, attending news conferences and lobby days, and most fundamentally, thank you for sticking together during this very difficult fight. I also want to offer my sincere thanks to the other PSC officers and the union staff, without whose unwavering support and work this contract would not have been possible. There is much more to do to make CUNY the university that its students, faculty and professional staff deserve, but because of your activism, the PSC is well positioned to continue this important work.

In solidarity,

Barbara Bowen

PSC President

Greetings, HEOs!

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.

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GREETINGS, HEOs! 

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).

GETTING HERE

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.

ORGANIZE NOW!

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.

In solidarity,

Andrea Ades Vásquez,

HEO Chapter Chair

Why I’m Voting Yes

Lizzie Eisenberg is a PhD student in Political Science and Guest Lecturer in Urban Studies at the Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies. See our Proposed Contract Discussion page for more on this subject.

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This contract has shortcomings. I have been a graduate student for 6 years. I have been a Graduate Assistant B, a Teaching Assistant, and an adjunct. I have taught regular courses sometimes with 120 students in a semester, and I have taught Masters level courses where the level of involvement and attention needed is very high. I have carried this teaching load while neglecting my own graduate studies because I have needed the money, and I have borrowed more money than I can imagine paying back. I know that this is not an unusual situation. In fact, in our school—it’s par. This contract is not going to change my life. But I still plan on voting to ratify it.

I’m not prepared to reject a contract that can provide at least some help to people who have been struggling for far too long because we haven’t been able to make a deal. We have to work harder for the next contract. We haven’t been organized enough to get the leverage we need for the gains that we want, both as a union and as a chapter. Truthfully, we still have plenty of work to do as a chapter and it is work I am ready for.

The Graduate Center chapter of the PSC is the only chapter in which full-time faculty do not make up the majority of eligible members. That makes our chapter a possible vehicle to place issues affecting more vulnerable PSC members front and center. For this reason, it is especially important that we build a chapter that is so organized, so informed, and so tough, that it can be a powerful advocate within the union as well as a resource that strengthens the union in its effort to support members earning poverty wages.

All of this is to say, organizing the rank-and-file in such a way that produces real power is hard work and it’s crucial. Helping people to understand why this contract has problems is crucial too. I certainly am no apologist for its failures.

However- I do recognize that if we vote this contract down, there are no good outcomes. A strike under current conditions would not be effective for us, our students, and our organization. Returning to the bargaining table weakened by internal dissent will not yield a better deal for us. The concerns and shortcomings in this deal outlined by groups opposed to it are serious. The efforts of those who are doing the legwork to explain these shortcomings are communicating issues that many of us feel and will continue to feel. Even so, the inadequacies of this contract are not a reason to reject it. These inadequacies are a call to increase our efforts, organization, and pragmatism.

I hope many of you will join the efforts to increase the power of the GC chapter- because I now have, and I think we can achieve a lot.

Sincerely,

Lizzie Eisenberg

Why I’m Voting “No” on the Contract

Jeremy Sawyer, Chapter Executive Committee member and delegate for the PSC Delegate Assembly, shares his perspective on why he’s voting no. This piece is being reposted with the permission of the author after having originally been published here. You can see more analysis and information on our Proposed Contract Discussion page.

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As a member of the Graduate Center PSC executive committee and a PSC delegate, I voted “no” on the contract at our most recent Delegate Assembly (DA), and I am voting “no” again during the current membership ratification vote. Here I want to explain why I’m taking this position and how I think this relates to our struggle going forward.

As we go through the details of this proposed contract, it has become apparent that most of the gains are highly contingent, while the losses are more permanent and set in stone. For instance, workload reduction for full-time staff relies on management’s goodwill in forming committees to “find resources” to accomplish this. Higher Education Officers (HEO) advancement for taking on added responsibilities or workload is not automatic, but is something that must be applied for, and is subject to the “fiscal and programmatic needs of the department and/or the college,” according to the contract agreement. The much-touted job security gains of two- or three-year contracts for adjuncts will apply to a tiny percentage of adjuncts and are ultimately merely a five-year pilot program, under which the PSC must agree to any modifications CUNY wants at the end of the five-year period or the program disappears. At the Delegate Assembly, several adjuncts explained that shuttling from campus to campus makes it difficult to accrue the needed hours and semesters in a single department to qualify for consideration for the appointment. One adjunct of 20 years pointed out that he would not qualify under this contract’s stringent rules.

The losses in this proposed contract include a widening of the pay gap between full-timers and contingent, adjunct instructors. This two-tier setup is at the heart of ongoing attacks on public higher education and higher ed unions. CUNY runs the majority of its classes by using super-exploited adjuncts, while at the same time continuing to chip away at tenure-track positions. We need a real fight to expand tenure-track lines and positions. Instead, this contract offers gains to management around the expansion of non-tenured one-year appointments to 250, raises in the maximum pay for elite faculty, and expansion of non-capped elite faculty salaries. Instead of the expansion of a third “elite tier” of faculty, this elite pay should have instead gone toward pay parity among CUNY workers, which was a stated goal of our contract struggle.

We’ve heard from our union negotiators that CUNY would absolutely not budge on allowing us to distribute relatively more money to adjuncts (in order to achieve our stated aim of moving toward pay parity, or at least to not widen the pay gap). Instead of continuing a real fight for pay parity to put a dent in the two-tiered system, we got a highly provisional meager gain on adjunct “job security.” This seems to fit a national trend of unions being able to achieve small gains in security for the lower tier of their workforces, at the continued price of retaining or expanding the tiered systems themselves. This sets us back by reinforcing the divide at the center of our university, our union and our struggle. Thus, despite the provisional gains made here and there, this contract further divides and weakens us by making no movement on the big question of parity. CUNY and New York state are absolutely dedicated to maintaining and exacerbating this unequal labor structure, and it will take a real fight to challenge it. The fates of full-timers and adjuncts are tied together and depend on doing so.

Many delegates at the DA who ended up voting “yes” spent large portions of their speaking time raising critiques of the contract, and saying that we’ve got to do better in the next contract fight, and that we need to build on the mobilizations of this past year. We unquestionably need to continue to build on recent mobilizations, which were delayed in this contract struggle for far too many years, while we awaited a more “friendly” mayor. However, there are compelling reasons to continue to fight in the “here and now” around the current contract, as opposed to a hypothetical future struggle around the next contract, which is by no means guaranteed to begin in the fall of 2017, when this contract would expire.

If we really connected PSC struggles with our students’ fight against increased tuition, against CUNY crackdowns on activism and other issues that affect the wider CUNY community, we could build strong public support in New York City. We were already receiving very favorable media coverage around the time of our 92 percent strike authorization vote, we had the inspiring example of Verizon workers fighting back, and the Bernie Sanders phenomenon pointed to the ongoing crisis of the U.S. political system. It did not feel like the time to pull the plug and settle for the current contract. I feel that we deserve better, and could have more if our union carried forward a real plan to build for potential job actions, instead of transparently using the strike authorization vote as a symbolic bargaining chip.

As to the basic question of negotiating strategy, it is clear that CUNY effectively lowballed us by offering nothing for a long time, then 6 percent over 6 years, and finally the current offer of 10.4 percent over seven years. This is the city bargaining “pattern” and is what AFSCME District Council 37 got without a strike authorization vote. Rather than aiming high ourselves and carrying on a struggle on that basis, however, we lowered our initial 19 percent demand (which also doesn’t keep up with New York City inflation in living costs over the same period) without explanation or input from the membership. Demands raised by adjuncts in 2010 around the contract struggle for automatic three-year contracts for adjuncts were replaced with the demand for contracts that would kick in only after an adjunct has taught two courses per semester for five years, a condition that department chairs can easily evade by simply laying off adjuncts before they reach the necessary five years. In addition, the adjunct demand for a $30 per credit hour raise (an approximately 50 percent raise for adjuncts) was replaced with the vague demand for “measurable progress toward pay parity” (which has not been achieved). This systematic lowering of demands before the contract struggle even begins hamstrings us and demobilizes rank-and-file support for a real fight. Bargaining logic dictates that we should instead always ask for more than we think we can win. If you start small, meeting halfway is never actually halfway–it’s a loss.

A substantial “no” vote will send a message to CUNY and our union that this contract is not good enough, that we have to do better, and that we need to rethink our strategy. If the “no” vote were to win, this does not imply an immediate strike or job action by the PSC and could play out in various ways. One possibility is a return to bargaining with a member mandate to negotiate a better contract. Contrary to the leadership’s claims, I see no indication that voting no would get anything worse. The deal we have follows the city pattern, and we likely would have gotten something pretty similar with no mobilization at all, as DC 37 did. Were we to vote it down, we wouldn’t necessarily do better, but based on past examples of “no” votes, it’s hard to imagine we would do worse. However, the real possibility held out by a “no” vote for achieving a better deal would be that our union seriously readjusts its strategy and begins the process of mobilizing in earnest to prepare for a strike or job action. This preparation will realistically take longer than the fall and must involve an escalating series of actions that can draw in wider layers of membership, especially adjuncts, into such a struggle.

This approach does not minimize the dangers of who we’re up against, nor the anti-union Taylor Law, but rather uses democratic input and activity from the rank and file to formulate broad demands which can mobilize a determined and inspired struggle. As the PSC leadership pointed out at the DA, we will need to strike for “more than 1 or 2 percentage points” in pay to be able to mobilize members to take on CUNY, the governor and the plan to run our public universities on exploited contingent labor. It is true that to motivate and mobilize people for an effective strike, you need to have clear demands that inspire people and inspire the public. However, these broader demands such as substantial movement toward parity or free CUNY tuition were never a part of our contract struggle to begin with. This is why the argument about our membership not being willing to strike rings hollow. The flip side of this is that the membership could be organized for job actions if we raise our sights, raise our expectations and raise demands that resonate with PSC members and the broader public.

If we think our union’s strategy could be better, we should not accept the bitter fruits of that mistaken strategy that have resulted in the current contract offer. It only appears like the best we can do because our strategy has been faulty from the beginning. Our union won steps toward pay parity in the early 2000s (adjuncts winning weekly office hours), and other faculty unions at public institutions such as the California Faculty Association (CFA) have virtually achieved pay parity. This tells us that such victories are possible, and we should learn from these struggles and apply what we can to our own situation.

The Adjunct Project and many other activists at CUNY have played a key role in promoting adjunct struggles, and winning the possibility for graduate assistants to join the GC chapter. Subsequently, our GC chapter has been revived as a fighting vehicle and organizing force within the PSC. All of our chapter and union’s organizing of the past year, including the strike authorization vote, has helped to strengthen us going forward. I do not believe we need to split adjuncts off into a separate union, as some have suggested, but rather we need to organize within the union to direct our struggle at management and the forces that stand behind them. It is my hope that people on both sides of this contract question can continue a healthy debate and discussion moving forward together in strengthening our GC chapter, transforming our union and taking on CUNY, Cuomo and a larger system that shortchanges public education, students and faculty alike.

Yes, and….

Luke Elliott-Negri, Chapter President and Graduate Assistant in Sociology, offers his individual take on the vote (earlier he was one of seven Graduate Assistants whose analysis can be found here). You can find all of the pieces we have on the contract so far here.

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After 6 years without a contract for CUNY graduate-student workers, faculty—both part and full time—and staff, there is finally an offer on the table. Notwithstanding the notable limitations of the proposed contract, I support ratification.

A subset of Graduate Assistants and Adjuncts in the PSC are advocating no ratification. There is a moral outrage, especially because of the “across the board” raises, which fail to ameliorate the poverty wages of CUNY adjuncts. And yet I believe we need to ratify. Here’s why:

1. Striking is the most powerful tool that any union can wield. Yet even the Transit Workers Union, with it’s immense structural power, wins and loses strikes not just based on internal mobilization but also based on external political positioning.

The recent strike authorization vote indicates that there is energy in our organization for more militant activity. Yet if we want to strike and win, we need to strike for clear moral demands—Free CUNY and Adjunct Parity—not for a couple percentage points more than we currently have on offer. We need to center these demands both because it is the right thing—we should be fighting for adjunct parity and for a CUNY that is free to the working class residents of NYC—but also because those demands will resonate with the majority of city residents. To win a strike, we as an organization need to be acting as a champion of the CUNY system, and not just trying to push above the pattern that every other city union received.

There is work to be done to get the PSC to a point where it truly has these goals at the center and, in part as a consequence, has the capacity to strike offensively. While it is great that 10,000 members voted on strike authorization, another 10,000 + did not vote. And we still have thousands of Agency Fee payers, the bulk of them Adjuncts. We need Adjunct committees on every campus in the system, in order to prepare our organization to center the moral demands that are the precondition for successful militant action on behalf of the CUNY system. If we vote this contract down, we don’t just personally need to be prepared to strike, we need to be confident that we can collectively win an offensive strike against CUNY, the City and State with all of the internal organization and public support that that entails. This chapter is prepared to do the organizing work to help build this capacity, but the fall is frankly too soon.

2. There are gains in the contract. The last MOA from the late aughts does not even use the phrase “Graduate Assistants.” To be quite frank, GAs as a class were simply not on the radar of the PSC bargaining team, even two years ago. One clear-cut gain is health insurance for GC students who continue as adjunct instructors after depositing their dissertations. But whatever the limitations of what we have on offer, the fact that the MOA addresses the GA series is a sign of the power that comes from organizing. We wanted more than we got in this contract, but we have much more than we would have if we did not organize.

3. The bulk of the well-organized membership is ready to settle. This is an ‘industrial’ union, which means that we have many ‘crafts’/interests represented under one tent (Graduate Assistants, Adjunct Faculty, Tenured Faculty and Higher Education Officers, among others). This is a good thing in the long run, but it presents very real tensions in the immediate. By most measures, full time faculty and HEOs are more organized than part time workers (Graduate Assistants and Adjuncts). I spoke to one Assistant to HEO (an APO) who was nervous about the no campaign: “It’s been six years, and my family and I need the raise.”

To be frank, part-timers are less organized in large part because they are underpaid and contingent. But any way you slice it, the part-time workers in this union need to build deeper organization. We simply do not have the capacity yet to assure that our issues are front and center in bargaining.

The Graduate Center chapter is launching an organizing program this fall that expands the scope of our part-time organizing beyond the Graduate Center. When the 13,000 + part-time workers covered by the PSC Collective Bargaining Agreement are organized, campus by campus, the contracts we return will look very different than what we have on offer today.

4. The contract expires in one year. To be quite frank, if this were a five-year contract, a different approach would be in order. The blunt truth is that the contract’s stance on part-time workers is a direct reflection of the power we currently have. I am glad that our pay and working conditions at this moment are not frozen in place for many years. Rather, they are frozen for one year. We immediately need to develop new bargaining priorities and organize around them. We immediately need to assure that there are multiple Graduate Assistants—and more Adjuncts—on the next bargaining team. And we need to push for a more transparent bargaining process. Let’s start this work now.

The GC Chapter is building an organizing program that expands our power as part-timers and a union, that puts us in a position to win and win more—ultimately Free CUNY and Adjunct Parity. November 2017 will be here before we know it. I support ratification—but whether you vote yes or no, let’s get organized.

Email to Grad Assistants

Yesterday an email went out to Graduate Assistants (GAs) linking to the analysis written by seven Graduate Center GAs. You can find the text of that email below.

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Dear PSC Graduate Assistant,

At the Delegate Assembly on June 22nd, the PSC executive committee proposed the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the tentative contract agreed to by our negotiation team and CUNY management. This agreement comes after a yearlong escalation in our confrontation with CUNY management and Governor Cuomo, culminating in a 92 percent vote by our union members to authorize a strike if negotiations did not progress. The recommendation of the MOA for ratification by our membership was approved by delegates, 111 to 11. A healthy debate occurred at the DA, with a variety of arguments for and against voting to take the tentative contract agreement to membership. These disagreements have also been reflected in the Graduate Center chapter delegates: one (out of four) voted against the executive committee’s proposal.

We want everyone to be familiar with the contents of the MOA, both what we have gained in this round of bargaining but also what remains to be won. While the Executive Council of the GC Chapter recommends ratification, we want to encourage and facilitate the fullest possible discussion about the gains and losses therein. We have updated our website with a detailed breakdown of the MOA, and will post more member analyses going forward.

After five years without a contract, CUNY management offered an outrageous 6%, including retroactive pay at the end of last year. The 10.41% compounded retroactive wage increases we have won – thanks in large part to our effective strike authorization campaign – will be applied across-the-board for all titles in our bargaining unit. We expect these payments to be sent out this year. On top of these payments, there is a ratification bonus of up to $1000. Due to the growth and activity in our chapter this past year, Graduate Assistant issues are addressed in the MOA. We will receive a $750 (GA A, B & C) or $500 bonus (GA D), keep our health benefits when moving to adjunct status, and most likely get retroactive pay. However, we cannot guarantee the latter as, in the past, the GC cut our stipends when wages rose. Though the fight of GA members forced this issue onto the negotiating table, and the PSC leadership assures us that there will be no more stipend cuts, we were unsuccessful in getting concrete contractual language to this effect. This remains a task for the future.

This agreement on retroactive salary increases will surely taste bittersweet for many. On the one hand, after 6 years without a raise, CUNY management has been forced to compensate us more fairly for the work we have done year in and year out. On the other the hand, our salary increases still lag behind inflation and ultimately exacerbate CUNY’s two-tiered faculty system.

Though the wage package is weaker than we want, the agreement offers the potential for progress on a key issue for our union: adjunct security. Long-term adjuncts will become eligible for three-year appointments during a five-year pilot program. Yet our work is far from done. This gain is a contingent one that can be diluted and undermined by management. Our fight has made this gain possible and now we must fight to make this program permanent, and ultimately to expand it in a way that eliminates contingency altogether.

Even with the organizing we have started to do this past year, management still has the upper hand and austerity remains the order of the day among the political and economic elite. Our chapter made an impressive stride forward, signing up hundreds of fee payers as union members, developing a strong committee structure out of the Strike Authorization Vote, and holding Chase Robinson’s feet to the fire throughout a year of disastrous budget cuts. But management remains as committed as ever to cheapening the value of our labor and exploiting our insecurity in a neoliberal CUNY. Given that we can’t change this reality with one labor management meeting or one round of negotiations, we have to evaluate the current contract in the context of our longer project to build power as CUNY workers.

Though we don’t expect all members to agree with our recommendation for ratification, we are certainly in a better position now because of our success in building power as a chapter and a union. The lesson to draw from this battle is not that this is the best we can ever get but that when we organize ourselves we can win more. The MOA, on the heels of our strike authorization vote, is evidence that more engagement brings better outcomes. Before the union can start winning even more at the negotiation table, we must consolidate what we have gained as a chapter organization this past year. To this end, we have formed committees on new member organizing, contract demands and enforcement, legislative work & adjunct organizing beyond the GC. We will need to extend this in the coming year to have any chance of effectively fighting on the range of issues our members are facing at the Graduate Center, Murphy Institute, School of Professional Studies, the Journalism School, the School of Public Health, Macaulay Honors College and beyond. However you end up voting, we hope you join us in that fight.

Luke Elliott-Negri
Chapter Chair

Tahir Butt
Alternate Delegate

Jeremy Sawyer
Alternate Delegate

Marc Kagan
Grievance Counselor

Chloe Asselin
Part Time Liaison

Anh Tran
Graduate Assistant B

Travis Sweatte
Graduate Assistant B

Proposed Contract: From the Perspective of Seven Graduate Assistants

Our first perspective on the proposed PSC/CUNY contract comes from a group of seven Graduate Assistants: Luke Elliott-Negri, Tahir Butt, Jeremy Sawyer, Marc Kagan, Chloe Asselin, Anh Tran, and Travis Sweatte. Full-time faculty and HEO pieces will be out in the days to come. If you want to weigh in with your own view see our Proposed Contract Discussion page for more information on that and other contract-related links.

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Last week, we received the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), our contract, from our union leadership after a long collective bargaining session between CUNY management and the PSC. If ratified, this contract will be valid until November 30, 2017. On Thursday, June 23, the Delegate Assembly of the PSC voted “yes,” 111-11, to send the contract to rank-and-file members for a vote. (The GC delegates attending the meeting split, three voting ‘for,’ the one ‘against.’) We hope that you will take the time to read the attached MOA and decide whether or not you believe we, as a union, should ratify this contract. In spite of it’s notable limitations, most PSC leaders in the GC chapter recommend ratification. To help you make the decision, we summarize the celebrations and concerns raised in the Delegate Assembly about the contract.

 

Wages

  • A pay increase of 10.41%, instead of the 6% CUNY proposed last fall, includes an immediate raise of approximately 8.9% with another 1.5% on April 20, 2017.
  • Retroactive pay will be calculated based on 1% increases in 2012 and 2013, a 2.5% increase in 2014, and 2% increases in 2015 and 2016.
  • A ratification/signing bonus of $750 for Graduate Assistants A, B, and C, and $500 for Graduate Assistants D. $1000 for full-time faculty and professionals, and adjuncts who taught at least 9/9 credit hours in 2105/16 and remain on payroll next fall. Bonuses for other adjuncts will be pro-rated based on a 12 credit hours = $500 formula.

Comment: This is a similar wage package to DC37 / CUNY and almost all of the municipal unions. This increase does not keep up with inflation. It is also 4.41% higher than the pitiful offer CUNY made before we conducted the strike authorization vote. The fact that it is applied uniformly across all titles means that it widens the pay inequity between adjuncts and full-time faculty.

 

Wage Issues for Graduate Assistants
In the past, GAs have received annual step increases in pay [link to contract] but those also receiving a stipend (typically GABs) had the stipend reduced by an amount equivalent to the pay increase. We sought language specifically prohibiting reductions of stipends due to wage increases. No such language was negotiated. When questioned at the Delegate Assembly meeting about this issue, Barbara Bowen stated that it was the leadership’s intention to prevent stipend reductions in the future.

Comment: Wage and step increases are obviously vital to most GAs and we are concerned by the lack of clear-cut language. We cannot promise certainty, but we can promise to fight any attempts on the part of the GC to recoup our contractually negotiated wage increases.  

 

Health Benefits

GAs who become adjuncts and teach 6/6 credit hours will be immediately eligible for health benefits. The previous agreement to give adjuncts teaching 6/6 for a second consecutive year health benefits is incorporated into the contract. EOC adjuncts will now be eligible for health benefits, as other adjuncts.

Comment: These are all clear-cut gains. To achieve cost-savings, there will be some changes in benefits consistent with those negotiated by the municipal unions.  

 

Multi-year Adjunct Appointments

Subject to the “fiscal and programmatic needs” of the department or college, and approval by the department’s personnel and budget committee, adjuncts who have taught at least 6 credit hours for ten consecutive semesters in the same department of the same college will be eligible for 3 year appointments guaranteeing at least 6 credit hours of work per semester. This is a pilot program that will lapse in 2020 unless CUNY agrees to extend it.

Comment: It is not clear how many adjuncts will meet all the conditions for eligibility – perhaps 15-20% from comments at the Delegate Assembly. It is not clear whether Departments will act to pre-empt eligibility, or how broadly “fiscal and programmatic needs” will apply – in other words, the extent to which CUNY will act in good faith. In short, we need to fight to make this gain a genuine gain.

 

HEO Raises

Workers in Higher Education Officer job titles who have reached top step of pay will be eligible for review for an additional $2500 salary increase. Workers at lower steps will be eligible for review to move to the next step based on excellence of work or increased duties.

Comment: This is a gain but its application is again contingent on CUNY good faith.

 

Committee on Workload Reduction for Faculty

A joint labor-management committee will consider how to reduce annual workload for full-time faculty from 24 to 21 hours and “identify resources to cover the costs.”

Comment: See above comment.

 

Other Significant Gains by the PSC

  • Librarians: Increased leave from 30 to 40 days.
  • Annual investment of $160,000 in Adjunct Professional Development fund Four day Bereavement Leave for full-timers, pro-rated for part-timers; Graduate Assistants excluded.
  • Teaching Assistants at Hunter College Campus Schools will receive a $5000 pay increase.

 

Other Significant Gains by CUNY

  • The numbers of non-tenured Distinguished Lecturers and Clinical Professors are increased from 125 to 250.
  • The numbers of Distinguished Professors are increased from 175 to 250.
  • CUNY may offer salaries to selected faculty of 180% of the contractual wage rate for each faculty title.
  • Under a pilot program (which must be renegotiated after 5 years or it will lapse), CUNY may offer up to 50 faculty a (higher) wage, exempted from any contractual restrictions.

Comment: These concessions further enshrine contingency and increase wage disparities among faculty in a similar job title, benefitting a handful of “superstars.”

 

Kicked Down the Road

  • A committee will discuss online teaching observations.
  • A committee will discuss tuition waivers for children of instructional staff.
  • A committee will discuss Business School Salaries.

Proposed Contract Documents and Upcoming Voting

Today President Bowen sent members an email with information about voting on the proposed contract with CUNY. The Executive Council and Delegate Assembly have had their chance to vote, and now it’s our turn as members!

Instructions on voting will be sent out on July 7th (we will give more information regarding how to vote in a separate post as we get closer); in the meantime, here is the Memorandum of Agreement that lays out the contract changes in full, and here is the summary of the proposed new contract.

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