Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A Year without a Contract Action Monday at the Board of Trustees at Baruch College


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Athen Soules writes: "CUNY protest this time last year. Honored I could help them in their fight by making and bringing these illuminated NYC Light Brigade signs of truth. Wishing you all receive exactly your demands."

Taking a bust for CUNY.
Photo by  Chris Swift!

On Friday, I sent a  letter  the members  of our union, the Professional  Staff  Congress.
Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Its been a year that we’ve been without a contract.   In our last contract, we wrote letters, lobbied, engaged in multiple acts of civil disobedience, threatened to strike and then and only  then did we get a contract. But it took seven years.  This round we’d like to let the CUNY Board of Trustees know this cannot be the norm.

We need to show CUNY we need a contract now.

Monday, we are pressing for the contract we need.

CUNY’s budget request still hasn’t been released—weeks after it’s usually made public. Will the budget address our contract demands for competitive salaries and $7K for adjuncts? The trustees need to know that we’re watching and ready to act. RSVP here to participate in a rally outside the Board meeting next Monday, December 10. Come to demand the fully funded contract we deserve, and be prepared to support PSC’s elected leadership as they engage in a protest action. Meet at 4:30 PM at the corner of East 25th Street and Lexington Ave, next to the Baruch Vertical Campus, 55 Lexington Avenue. Click here to download a flier.
My neighbor Greg, who works at  Brooklyn College, met me and we went to the action.
Arriving at Baruch just as the action was starting. 
Hundreds of colleagues were there to demand the board of trustees at CUNY do their job.
Its been a year.
It’s a good economy.
They can make  an  offer. 
Show some leadership.
Tax the rich, not the poor.
Stop the war on  CUNY, we demanded.
CUNY is a resource against fascism.
It helps remind people of ideas and history,
Training a workforce to remake New  York.
Engaging immigrants, turning kids out of the black market.
But we have opponents.
An educated workforce is an enemy of despots.
And that’s why it’s a threat.
A mechanism of upward mobility,
We move bodies  out of poverty.
But none of this is a given.
Why engage in  social action?
Without it, they ignore us, as they’ve done all year long.
One year without a contract.
Power concedes nothing without a demand.
Civil rights didn’t come without a demand and bodies to back it up.
Same thing with Feminism, Gay Rights, AIDS.
And the trade union movement. 
One big union.
As Utah Phillips reminds us

Barbara Bowen,  the president of our union, made a similar point.

The PSC's last contract expired on November 30, 2017. The union has spent the past year in serious negotiations and an escalating campaign to push the CUNY Board to do the right thing. Escalation is the only way we have ever won more than austerity contracts, and today's protest is a further step in that escalation.
Collective action is why the PSC won back-pay in the last round of bargaining, and why in previous contracts we won sabbaticals at 80% pay, junior faculty reassigned time, the HEO salary differential, paid office hours for adjuncts, adjunct health insurance, graduate employee health insurance, paid parental leave and more. None of those gains against the Board's austerity regime came without a fight.
At Baruch, hundreds of members cheered and chanted;
"CUNY trustees, do your job. Demand the funding CUNY needs!"
"We are going to block the CUNY doors unless they give us the contract we need," shouted Barbara Bowen,  as we lined up in front of the doors where the board of trustees were meeting,  moving to block the doors of the building.
And dozens of police appeared.
Playing a recording warning us we would be arrested if we did not move.
Could it be more Orwellian?
And the sonata began, arrests, more chants.
What do you want?
A contract.
Plastic cuffs.
Bens got a smile on  his face
my comrades welcomed me on the van.
Hello professors, we’ll get you out of these cuffs soon,
One of the police told us.
I wish my profs did this.
Everyone in New York goes to CUNY.
Downtown we drove to be processed,
Telling stories.
The police removed our shoelaces,
For fear we might hurt ourselves.
But why not socks?
You could hurt someone with those too?
Passing the hours,
The old Reclaim the Streets sticker from 1999 was still in the holding cell,
Where I spend the day with Sylvia Rivera, Bob Kohler, Leslie Feinberg, Keith Cylar,
So many friends gone.
But with us.
ACT UP stickers worn away with time.
Police state, someone carved in the benches.
Police shuffle paper work,
In and out of manila envelopes.
We’re all dinosaurs,
Notes Mike.
Our days are numbered.
Dry peanut butter sandwiches at ten PM.
Can I have one with jelly I asked,
Returning it.
Court date in February.
Scott and company are there to greet us on the way out.
Here’s to jail solidarity.
An injury to one is an injury to all.
Hopefully we moved the dial a little bit.
We wonder over  Chinese food that night.
We need a contract.
Friendship is about doing noted Greg, my old rebel friend, 
meeting us after the action.
Solidary expanding.
One big union, working together. 
New York—Elected leaders of the faculty and professional staff union at the City University of New York (CUNY) were arrested today while demanding a contract that will help ensure a quality education for the half-million CUNY students across the city. Seventeen protesters, including the union president, vice president and secretary, local campus leaders and members of the executive council, blocked the doors to Baruch College near the Flatiron District of Manhattan during a meeting of the CUNY Board of Trustees. Hundreds more CUNY faculty and staff chanted “CUNY Trustees, do you job! Demand the funding CUNY needs!” during the blockade.

CUNY’s 30,000 faculty and staff have been without a contract for more than a year. Their union, the Professional Staff Congress, is demanding that the University Board of Trustees use its power and press the State and City to provide the funding needed to pay competitive salaries to faculty and staff and raise the near-poverty wage currently paid to 12,000 adjunct faculty.

PSC President Barbara Bowen, an English professor at Queens College and the CUNY Graduate Center, was arrested with her colleagues. Before joining the blockade at the 24th Street entrance to Baruch College, she addressed the protesters and the legal rally of hundreds of other union members.

“Faculty salaries are thousands of dollars below those at comparable institutions, adjuncts receive poverty-level pay, college libraries are cutting hours and the students are being asked to pay higher and higher tuition,” said Bowen. “It’s time for the CUNY Board to stop defending austerity and start demanding the funding CUNY needs.”

Salaries for CUNY professors lag of thousands of dollars behind those at comparable public universities, such as the University of Connecticut and Rutgers. CUNY adjuncts earn a near-poverty average wage of $3,500 per course, the equivalent of $28,000 per year, even though they hold Master’s degrees and PhDs. The union is demanding real raises for all full-time faculty and staff and $7,000 per course for CUNY adjuncts.  The union argues that increased public funding, not increased tuition, is the only sustainable way to support fair salaries and quality education at CUNY.

The last contract between the University and its workers was not fully funded by the State; the inflation-level raises it granted were funded with painful cuts to senior college academic programs, increased reliance on low-wage adjuncts, and tuition hikes for students. Albany’s declining per-student investment in the senior colleges, together with its failure to cover mandatory cost increases, is hurting the quality of education received by CUNY students, who are mostly low-income New Yorkers and people of color. The University Budget Request for FY2020, due to be released any day, is the document that will show whether the CUNY Board is serious about quality education for students and wage justice for workers.

“The CUNY Board of Trustees has the opportunity and the obligation to stand up for CUNY students,” said Bowen.  “Without a vigorous request for more funding, they will simply be turning their back on the hundreds of thousands of CUNY students.”

The CUNY Board of Trustees approves the University’s annual budget request, which is currently in development, and its collective bargaining agreement with faculty and staff, which expired last November.  The Board majority is held by ten appointees of Governor Cuomo, who include former NYC Comptroller Bill Thompson and current State Budget Director Robert Mujica. Mayor de Blasio appoints five trustees.

From: "POLITICO New York Pro" <ny.education@politicopro.com>
Date: December 11, 2018 at 5:47:38 AM EST
To: <bbowen@pscmail.org>
Subject: POLITICO New York Education: Police arrest 17 CUNY faculty union
leaders over public demonstration — Former SUNY Poly head to be sentenced today — Blind New York resident sues over inaccessible college sites

Police arrest roughly 17 members of CUNY's faculty union during contract rally

12/10/2018 06:26 PM EST

Police arrested roughly 17 leaders of the City University of New York’s faculty and staff union after they blocked the entrance of Baruch College — where the CUNY board of trustees was meeting — to demand a fair contract.
"We are going to block the CUNY doors unless they give us the contract we need," Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress, shouted ahead of the action.
The leaders from PSC — which represents more than 30,000 full-time and adjunct faculty and staff — blocked the main entrance of Baruch on 24th Street and Lexington Avenue late Monday afternoon. Protesters hoped to pressure the board to push city and state leaders for funding to offer faculty and staff competitive salaries as well as raise the pay for adjuncts from $3,500 to $7,000 a course.
The arrested leaders included Bowen, the PSC vice president and secretary, along with local campus leaders and union executive council members.
Members of the NYPD's Strategic Response Group were seen arresting the union members as roughly 200 other protesters yelled in support of the action. Officers could be heard saying that the leaders would be arrested for disorderly conduct if they did not move.
"CUNY trustees, do your job. Demand the funding CUNY needs!" the protesters shouted repeatedly.
NYPD Sgt. Jessica McRorie told POLITICO that several individuals were in custody Monday evening but did not confirm the number arrested or the charges they would face.
The board approves CUNY’s yearly budget request, which is still being formulated, as well as its collective bargaining agreement with faculty and staff, which expired last November. The union, which has been without a contract for a year, said that it was expecting the board to release the proposed budget Monday, but it has not yet been issued.
The system has12,000 adjuncts who the union says receive a near-poverty wage. The current rate of pay per course shakes out to roughly $28,000 a year.
Union members also pointed to cuts to senior college academic programs, increased dependence on adjuncts and tuition increases for students.
Ahead of the civil disobedience action, hundreds of faculty and staff walked from 25th Street and Lexington Avenue to the college nearby where they gathered in front of the doors, blocking the entrance. Holding picket signs and posters, members yelled slogans such as "No contract, no peace!," "7K or strike!" and "Get up, get down! New York is a college town!"
Frank Sobrino, a CUNY spokesperson, said that negotiations with PSC are underway.
"We will negotiate at the bargaining table, not in the press," Sobrino said in a statement.

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