CUNY workers talk strike
Published Oct 9, 2005 11:13 PM
More than 1,200
members of the Professional Staff Congress met here Sept. 29 to hear a report on
the state of contract negotiations. The PSC, a local of the American Federation
of Teachers representing some 20,000 faculty members and staff at the City
University of New York, has been without a contract since 2002 and without a
raise since 2001.
Overflow PSC meeting says
‘no more concessioins.’
Under New York State’s Taylor Law, which forbids
strikes by public employees, the provisions of the expired contract remain in
Barbara Bowen, the PSC president, explained to rousing cheers and
applause from the overflow crowd how patiently and carefully the union had
presented its position to management, how it had made clear that it could not
accept a concessionary contract, especially when the City has a $3.5 billion
surplus and the State has settled a contract with the State Univer sity faculty
union containing a 15 percent raise over four years.
management does not want to go above the 4.17 percent raise over 37 months that
the City set in earlier contracts. Any raise over that must be funded by
“productivity” increases—union members working harder. It
especially wants to continue relying on 9,600 adjunct teachers, who teach a
majority of CUNY’s courses for substandard wages and benefits.
overwhelming majority of the students in CUNY are the daughters, sons or members
of the working class of New York, predominantly people of color. This
city’s establishment, run by bankers and business owners like the
billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, doesn’t consider it a political
priority to provide them with a quality higher education. The PSC sees its
struggle for a decent contract as part of the students’ struggle for a
President Bowen announced that—after a month of
intense negotiations with management, a month of discussion among union members,
two days of lunchtime picketing at the 20 campuses that make up the CUNY system,
and reaching out to CUNY students and their communities—the union’s
executive board will decide Nov. 3 whether or not to hold a strike referendum
among all the union’s members.
Randi Weingarten, president of the
UFT, an AFT division representing primary and high school teachers in New York
City, said at the rally that if New York City does not substantially increase
its offer, she would recommend to her membership that they also vote, sometime
in the latter part of October, to authorize a strike.
Mayor Bloomberg has
been running for reelection, touting all his great “successes” in
education, but not mentioning the teachers who do the work. With tensions
rising, Bloomberg and the UFT negotiators came to an agreement four days after
the PSC meeting. If ratified, the teachers will work a bit less than he wanted,
but still more hours than they do now. They will give up some grievance
protection and get a 15 percent raise over 4 years, rather than 11 percent over
At the PSC rally, Darlyn Lawson, recording secretary of Transit
Workers Union 100, also gave a strong message of solidarity, expressing her
union’s gratitude for PSC solidarity during the TWU’s struggle for a
contract in 2002.
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