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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!

September 15th EC Meeting Minutes

Minutes from chapter’s Executive Committee Meeting – 9/15/17

  • Recap one-stop & GA ballot tabling – 5 min
    • Strong showing & results indicate need to prioritize GA issues like never before
    • Even new students are aware that adjunctification is a top issue
  • Other contract campaign updates & steps forward – 25 min
    • All advisory groups have condensed a set of demands → Barbara Bowen & bargaining team will review & propose final list for EC then DA to vote on
    • This bargaining process is more constrained on time than last one because last team had 2 years to refine demands
    • Per EC timeline, we’d reach out to CUNY mgmt to start negotiations exactly when contract expires
    • Reportbacks from BT? At each meeting, the BT determines what info can be reported on → will affect how much Luke can share with GA membership at monthly accountability “forums”
    • Shouldn’t PSC be thinking strategies DURING process of constituting demands rather than waiting to strategize after demands are finalized?
  • Chapter communications – 5 min
    • Need website content! Submit tabling results, events, pictures, reportbacks
    • Everyone needs to share events with ALL your PSC friends
    • Digital signage campaign to introduce delegates, “did you know” to raise profile of the PSC, success stories PLUS advertise upcoming meetings
      • EC members need to submit headshot (in front of recognizable spots around bldg) & quote to Nina
    • Remember to submit reimbursement forms!
    • Remember to send digital announcements to affiliate campuses!
    • Come up with a fancy button related to demands (one specific to GAs?)
    • Start using adjunct infographic
  • Committees update – 5 min
    • Please read the minutes from the last stewards mtg on your own time
    • Committees can ask for any money as necessary & apply for DSC funds
    • HEO steering committee has met, is tabling regularly & focusing on recommitment cards, will visit ASRC to get sign-ups
  • MOE & legislative work – 20 min
    • For discussion, please read Rosa’s proposal for campaigning around CUNY funding
    • Political context unfavorable to unions so NYS constitutional convention is dangerous at this moment
      • Delegates chosen by senate districts, which over-represents upstate & favors GOP
      • Right wing & corp interests are well prepared for convention
      • Messaging from labor has flawed framing as “this is bad for unions” rather than “bad for you specifically”
      • Cuomo won’t sign MOE → must draw attention to his continued disinvestment in CUNY & Excelsior Scholarship
      • At risk: Adirondack Reserve, pensions
      • Constitution can be amended w/o convention
    • Should be introduced at chapter meeting (what is MOE & how to get involved)
    • Look for release of MOE teaching toolkit
    • DSA hosting debate on constitutional convention
    • Big push last year for MOE that Cuomo also didn’t sign → how to make this year different? Legislative committee developing more outward-facing campaign w/ bad press on Cuomo & students; Cuomo has pretended to care about higher ed so can be attacked for hypocrisy
    • MOE passing will save CUNY money that can be rolled into contract w/ PSC
    • Call MOE by a different name (ex. Cuomo Fund CUNY)
  • Chapter meeting prep – 20 min
    • Next chapter meeting will be about strategies after BT finalizes demands
    • Barbara Bowen requested to come speak about the contract, Luke will confirm that this is still the case
  • Labor management prep – 10 min – Marc
    • Items will be presented at chapter meeting for feedback

September Chapter Meeting

Please RSVP to our first chapter meeting of the new school year on Tuesday, September 19th, 12:30pm in the Skylight room. You can let us know you’re attending on Facebook or by emailing Sam.

See you then!

TIAA Retirement Consultant

You can make an appointment to speak with the Graduate Center’s TIAA representative about your retirement during five on-campus visits this Fall semester. RSVP at www.TIAA.org/schedulenow

Graduate Assistant Bargaining Priorities

Our union contract expires this semester, so it’s time to weigh in on our priorities for the coming round of bargaining!

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 Graduate Assistant contract advisory committee of the PSC wants you to help set priorities for bargaining. In addition to salary increases, what do you want to see in the next contract? Better benefits? Better training and working conditions?

Take just a few minutes to vote here before September 1, to have your say in our contract fight.

If you have any questions activists will be in the GC lobby from 11am-5pm next week – stop by!

August 2nd EC Meeting Minutes

Minutes from chapter’s Executive Committee Meeting – 8/2/17

  • Finalize resolutions process (15 min)
    • Will be proposed to Sept chapter meeting
    • Made three revisions:
      • “Resolutions will pass upon majority vote. Vote shall be conducted within the state meeting time.”
        • Discussed whether there should be an informal quorum (official quorum is 10%, which we rarely meet). But any number seems arbitrary (50? 100?) and does not ensure that decisions made at meeting are representative of entire membership. One of the problems from the April meeting was that by the time the resolution came to a vote, most people had left. If votes must be held during the stated meeting time, we can at least ensure that most attendees are voting.
        • Because most votes will never reach official quorum, there’s point 10: “If the chapter meeting does not reach quorum, the resolution should be edited to replace all instances of “the GC chapter” with “members of the chapter assembled” at that particular meeting, and the edited resolution will still be discussed and voted upon.”
      • “Resolutions which break city, state, and/or federal laws shall be directed to the PSC Delegate Assembly instead of the Graduate Center chapter.”
      • “Chapter members, chapter committees, and the chapter Executive Committee will work to improve this process as needed.”
  • Mini training for beginning of the year department visits (15 min)
    • If you’ve signed up to take a department at the GC, contact that department’s APO by the end of this week. Ask if there is an orientation where you could present. And if the department hasn’t had any PSC contact yet, also try to schedule a general session not just for new students but for all
  • Legislative update (10 min)
    • Maintenance of Effort Bill; passed the senate and house in NYS; gives CUNY money that is owed to it (not additional funding); like a cost of living adjustment; Cuomo normally does not sign it; up in November; come up with educational material to distribute at campuses, via student associations, etc.; pickets and protests outside of Cuomo’s office; legislative committee was happy with amount of effort our campus put in last fall, good way to show our chops within the union
    • Need a one-pager for what the campaign would look like; Luke can take to chapter chair’s meeting
    • Cuomo was responsive about MTA stuff, esp via social media
    • Possibility to do good work of education around this issue; spotlight the role of Cuomo in CUNY which will be important for 7K and contract campaign; people need to know that he’s our boss
  • Contract strategy for the semester (20 min)
    • How to work with other campuses in our chapter?
    • How to work with full timers? (What about Janus?)
    • How to engage broader union strategy?
      • CUNY Rising? How do we give it life among membership on the campuses
    • Shouldn’t lead with “pay your dues!” That’s what anti-union people say unions want: your money; money isn’t here, it’s in Albany; need to implement something larger; what can we do and not do relative to the students? How do we mobilize them to influence their parents, representatives, etc. that’s where the leverage is; need to figure out what the outward facing campaign is: need a mechanism to get in touch with students, alumni, and parents
    • Met with 8th floor; pitched an idea using alumni data for political work
    • Where does civil disobedience come in?
    • How can structures that already exist for GAs be implemented for other titles? Can we make a team of reps of different titles? Stewards by title with EC members helping out?
  • Labor management strategies & dates for the semester (25 min)
    • Penny is on sabbatical next year; we need another person who will be the point person
  • Digital signage campaign proposal (5 minutes)
    • What should the exact purpose be?
      • Education – “Did you know?” series
      • Awareness about chapter – could spotlight EC reps
      • Campaign/project specific announcements: GA contract demand voting (Aug 28-Sep 4); MOE (fall)
    • Should we profile EC reps or other PSC members?
    • Should the quotes be responses to a specific prompt (if so, which one/s?) or be excerpted from our one-on-ones?
    • How can we make these as eye-catching as possible?
  • Other updates (5 min) – everyone
    • Marisa Holmes – rally next Monday, August 7. Spread the word and show up if you can.
    • CAP
    • Fall chapter meetings
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