The Professional Staff Congress has endorsed Bill de Blasio for mayor of New York City, Letitia James for public advocate, and Scott Stringer for comptroller in the September 10 primary election. The union also announced endorsements in a range of contests for City Council and borough president.
“We support Bill de Blasio because he stands for an alternative to the politics of austerity that have dominated New York for too long,” said Barbara Bowen, president of the PSC. “De Blasio understands the strategic importance of CUNY and has a vision of its place in a city where opportunity is not limited to the richest 1%. New York must not continue to be the most unequal city in the country. We believe that de Blasio can win and can be part of making the change this city needs.”
The PSC’s Delegate Assembly voted to endorse de Blasio and other candidates at its meeting on June 20, on the recommendation of the union’s Executive Council. Forty-one City Council candidates also received the union’s support (see tinyurl.com/psc-city-council-2013; find your district at www.mygovnyc.org).
PSC members are considered among the “best informed in Democratic circles,” said a New York Times article on the PSC’s decision (“CUNY Union Endorses de Blasio,” June 24). “The endorsement is also prized because the union’s members have a track record of actually voting on Election Day,” the Times reported.
De Blasio’s stances on issues such as housing, poverty and taxation weighed heavily in PSC’s decision. His public education plan was also critical. With a surcharge on incomes over $500,000 per year, de Blasio would fund universal pre-K and after-school programs for middle school students. And money from tax giveaways to well-connected developers and businesses would be redirected to CUNY, funding a new $150 million investment in the University.
These proposals “reflect an agenda of economic justice and public investment supported by our union’s membership,” said First Vice President Steve London. “Bill de Blasio and the other candidates we’ve endorsed will support a movement to invest in the public good, protect critical services, and demand a fair share of taxes from the 1%.”
“CUNY would thrive in an environment like that,” said Bowen. “City funding could finally be increased to keep pace with increased enrollment, students could have smaller classes, tuition could be kept in check, and long-neglected facilities could be repaired and improved.”
In the race for public advocate, the PSC is supporting Letitia James, a longtime progressive who has represented City Council District 35 in Brooklyn for three terms. As chair of the Council’s Committee on Contracts, she demanded an investigation of the disastrous CityTime payroll project, which was found to involve $600 million in fraudulent billing. James has also been at the forefront of efforts to preserve community interests in the Atlantic Yards development and in the campaign to end the racial profiling practiced in the NYPD’s “stop-and-frisk” policy, which often affects CUNY students.
For NYC comptroller, the PSC has endorsed Scott Stringer, the current Manhattan borough president, because of his record of support for CUNY. Stringer has been a vocal advocate for increasing college access for undocumented immigrant students with the NY State DREAM Act, priority legislation for the PSC.
The 2013 elections offer a special opportunity for unions and community activists to move NYC politics in a more progressive direction. Every citywide office will be held by someone new, and more than a third of City Council seats are up for grabs. The PSC has been working with the newly formed Progressive NYC (an alliance formed by members of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus), the Central Labor Council, and the Working Families Party (of which the PSC is a member) to take advantage of that opportunity.
City Council Endorsements
Ritchie Torres (Bronx, CD 15): Torres, running in the district next to Bronx Community College, is an exciting young candidate who grew up in Bronx public housing. As a City Council staffer, Torres organized tenant associations in dilapidated buildings throughout the district and rallied them to fight for building improvements and rent reductions.
Yetta Kurland (Manhattan, CD 3):Kurland was a student activist at the height of the George Pataki budget cuts in the 1990s. A real fighter, she understands the importance of CUNY and whom it serves. As a civil rights attorney, Kurland won a landmark decision allowing same-sex couples to change their last names based on their relationship as domestic partners. She has represented activists fighting the closure of St. Vincent’s Hospital and participants in Occupy Wall Street.
Igor Oberman (Brooklyn, CD 48): Oberman came to the US in 1981 as a refugee from the former Soviet Union. He attended KCC and graduated from Brooklyn College and NYU Law School. Currently an administrative law judge, he has also been an adjunct lecturer at Hunter and Baruch. A longtime supporter of public higher education and CUNY, Oberman has been an articulate defender of academic freedom at Brooklyn College.
I. Daneek Miller (Queens, CD 27): Miller is president of ATU Local 1056, which represents drivers and mechanics working for NYC Transit’s Queens Bus Division. A community activist in southeast Queens for the past three decades, he is currently the target of a big effort by the real estate industry to block his election to the City Council.
The union has also endorsed two candidates for borough president: Robert Jackson in Manhattan and Eric Adams in Brooklyn. Jackson was an activist in his children’s public schools before he was elected to the City Council, and was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against underfunding of NYC public schools that sparked formation of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.
Currently a state senator, Eric Adams is a graduate of both City Tech and John Jay, and a retired NYPD officer who has organized against “stop-and-frisk.” A strong advocate for public education, this year he helped win an increase in state funding for community colleges.
PSC members can learn how to help elect Bill de Blasio and other PSC-endorsed candidates by going to psc-cuny.org/psc-endorsed-candidates online.