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Surviving Trump – A Plan for the PSC

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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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

Material Re: Sanctuary Campuses and Legal Resources For Students

FYI for members! More conversation on this to be had at today’s chapter meeting.

 

Sample Syllabus Language

“As an educator, I fully support the rights of undocumented students to an education and to live free from the fear of deportation. If you have any concerns in that regard, feel free to discuss them with me, and I will respect your wishes concerning confidentiality.

 

[And final sentence options:]

A) Furthermore, I am committed to resisting any and all attacks on immigrants, including threats of deportation, and will urge CUNY to serve as a sanctuary.

B) Furthermore, I am committed to making CUNY a sanctuary campus for undocumented immigrants, not just in word but in deed – through the campus community refusing to allow ICE to enter our campus and refusing to cooperate with and struggling to prevent any government attempts to ascertain the immigration status of members of our community or to detain or deport undocumented immigrants.”

 

Oh Crap! What Now? Survival Guide

This website provides a list of legal (and other) resources for individuals who may experience legal issues related to their immigration status. The majority of resources are non-country specific, but in NYC the ones listed tend to cater more to Spanish-speaking communities. www.theworldisaterribleplace.com/ohcrap/the-legal-system-and-you/immigration-issues-and-documents

 

CUNY CLEAR is a project of the CUNY Law School, and provides legal resources for individuals who are Muslim, Arab, or South Asian. www.cunyclear.org

 

Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) is a community-based organization in Queens. They do more community organizing than legal advice, but you should know about their work. www.drumnyc.org

 

Resources for Immigrant Students at CUNY

CUNY Citizenship Now! is a free and confidential legal assistance program that is available to the CUNY community. Immigrant students who have not yet consulted with a CUNY Citizenship Now! attorney are advised to do so ASAP. A list of sites and contact information is included below; more information along with a full list of services provided can be found on the web site: http://www.cuny.edu/citizenshipnow

 

CUNY Citizenship Now! Campus-Based Immigration Centers

Hostos Community College Immigration Center

427 Walton Ave., T-501, Bronx, NY 10451

Tel. 718-518-4395

Languages spoken: English and Spanish

Hours: 9:00 a.m.to 4:30 p.m. (Monday to Friday); Closed for lunch from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

By Appointment Only

 

Medgar Evers College Immigration Center

1150 Carroll St., Room 226, Brooklyn, NY 11225

Tel: 718-270-6292

Languages spoken: English, Spanish and Polish

Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Monday to Friday); Closed for lunch from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

 

City College Immigration Center

160 Convent Ave., North Academic Center, Rm. 1-206, New York, NY 10031

Tel. 212-650-6620

Languages spoken: English, Spanish, Italian and Haitian Creole

Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Monday to Friday); Closed for lunch from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

By Appointment Only

 

CUNY Xpress Immigration Center (New Location)

5030 Broadway, Suite 615 (between 213th and 214th Streets), New York, NY 10034

Tel. 646-664-9350

Languages spoken: English and Spanish

Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Monday to Friday)

 

Flushing Immigration Center

39-07 Prince St., Suite 2B, Flushing, NY 11354

Tel. 718-640-9223

Languages spoken: English, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese

Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Monday to Friday)

Closed for lunch from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

 

York College Immigration Center

Welcome Center Atrium, 94-20 Guy R. Brewer Blvd., Jamaica, NY 11451

Tel. 718-262-2983

Languages spoken: English and Spanish

Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Monday to Friday), Closed for lunch from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

By Appointment Only

 

CUNY CLEAR advice at a glance.

The Graduate Center, CUNY as a Sanctuary Campus

Put your name on this letter calling for Chancellor Milliken and President Robinson to make the Graduate Center a sanctuary campus! We will be discussing this as a chapter-wide resolution at the December 1st chapter meeting.

Joint Statement: Labor Against Trump

The election of Donald Trump to the highest office of government will be a disaster for the labor movement in the United States. Throughout the election season Trump campaigned on a far right wing platform of bigotry and xenophobia. Now that he is set to move in to the White House and Republicans control both houses of Congress, we can expect profound and sustained attacks on our union organizations and our communities.

As members of the labor movement, we have a special responsibility to stand against the policies and rhetoric of a Trump administration. The US working class is made up of people of all colors, religions and identities. Our unions are some of the most diverse institutions in the United States, and Trump would preside over attacks on the groups and communities that our members and their families are a part of.

Workers from Mexico, China, the Philippines or anywhere else are not our enemies and they are not responsible for the loss of union jobs in the United States. It is Wall Street and the corporate elites who are to blame. Collaborating with a Trump presidency and partnering with powerful corporations in an effort to bring back jobs will not make our movement stronger. Those who voted for Donald Trump will be given a dose of bitter medicine when they learn that his presidency will not put American workers first, but instead the interests of the 1%. We cannot allow Trump’s right wing appeals to workers to go unchallenged. Organized labor must unite and provide an alternative to scapegoating through fighting to defend workers’ living standards and putting forward a politics of solidarity. And our unions must organize the unorganized to bring millions more workers into the fold of the labor movement.

Now is the time for our unions to take action and begin to prepare for right to work legislation, legal attacks, and continuing employer demands for give-backs. Rather than give Trump an olive branch or offers of conciliation, our unions should come out swinging on day 1 of the new administration. Donald Trump lost the popular vote, and enjoys no mandate to rule. It is our duty to demonstrate to the world that we will fight back against Trump’s agenda, and to lend our resources to local battles against manifestations of this profoundly anti-worker onslaught.

We call on all unions to join us in Labor Against Trump contingents at any demonstrations or actions across the county on Inauguration Day, including in Washington DC. Our unions will also work locally to oppose Trump’s agenda, defend the communities he intends to attack, and join forces with those who call for solidarity rather than fear and division.

 

*Note: the chapter will be discussing whether to adopt this at the December 1st chapter meeting.

Kamran Moshref: Winning post-Trump

Kamran Moshef is a PhD student in Political Science.

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The election of Donald Trump is not what it seems. There have been a multitude of reactions to Trump’s victory, and most of them heavily feature words like disaster, emergency, defense, reaction, and so on. But the meaning of an event becomes clear only in retrospect, when we look back on it from the future. Our job is to build that future into the one we want, so that we can look back at the election and see it as the beginning of our path to victory.

CUNY, the PSC, and our chapter should not be misled into taking either of the following two roads. The first would be to think that organized labor and academic unions could possibly collaborate with the Trump regime because of Trump’s economic populist stance on investing in infrastructure. We cannot assume these promises will actually be fulfilled. But even more fundamentally, any collaboration, no matter how cautious, would fail to really challenge the reactionary nature of Trump’s appeal to economic populism.

The second dangerous road would be to hunker down, to act on fear and prepare only for defense. The wider labor movement has been in defensive mode for decades now, which reflects our structural weakness but also perpetuates it. At the same time, we don’t want to obscure the enormity of the tasks we face. Make no mistake: Trump and his Wall Street friends are coming for us as workers, as academics, and as activists and organizers. We do need to prepare ourselves for defense, but we can’t stop there.

Instead of either of these two roads, we need to take an approach that they won’t see coming, one that will seem unlikely, and maybe even impossible, until we do it. They already know what the standard approach will be. They know our playbook; they practically wrote it for us. We need to surprise them. People in this country are angry and ready for change. The labor movement and academic workers can be part of offering a real positive vision of how to re-knit the social fabric that has been torn apart by decades of brutal neoliberal capitalism into something better than it was before. And the only way to do this is to refuse any attempt to divide the working class: because the working class is multiracial, it is undocumented, urban and rural, LGBTQ, disabled and differently-abled, Muslim, indigenous.

If we decide that we already know that the election of Trump is a disaster for us, then we fail to notice that this is exactly the time for us to push forward.

Workers recently won an impressive and inspiring victory at Harvard. The National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of graduate student unionization at private universities. The Movement for Black Lives Platform coming out Black Lives Matter included a call for a constitutional right to a fully funded education. Surveys show that Millennials have a more favorable opinion of socialism than capitalism. Media coverage of the crisis in the university and the struggles of adjuncts is becoming more sympathetic. The neoliberal order is coming apart at the seams, and now, we have an opportunity to put forward an alternative; with an ecological crisis of unprecedented proportions, our ability to do so could quite literally determine the fate of the planet.

Academic workers have a unique role to play in these struggles, as we move in and out of conversation with activists, movements and intellectuals, and between our students and the wider society. Universities increasingly play a key role in the political economy of the city. University enrollment is at an all-time high and academic workers are at the center the fight for quality and affordable higher education. We are already important. We need to grasp subjectively, in our perceptions, feelings, and actions, what is already objectively the truth: that we hold a lot of power.

At minimum, we should:

  1. Make CUNY and the Graduate Center a sanctuary campus;
  2. Deepen links between struggles of academic workers at CUNY and the GC with the wider labor movement in New York City;
  3. Center the needs and perspectives of adjuncts in all PSC activity.

The election of Donald Trump is not what it seems. The real meaning of this election won’t be known until we chose how we’re going to react to it. It’s up to us to define its meaning and its historical significance. And that is why we can win: why we have to win.

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