With local campus actions, PSC chapters pushed the union’s contract campaign forward during Press the Presidents Week this October. At colleges across CUNY, union members urged their presidents to advocate for action toward a just and timely contract.
At BMCC around 100 members held a “silent march” through the corridors of the campus, doing a zig-zag from one floor to the next, and ultimately ending at BMCC President Antonio Pérez’s office. Protesters carried the now ubiquitous red signs of the contract campaign, “CUNY Needs a Raise.” The chapter decided to turn their regular chapter meeting into a silent march, and worked for two weeks to build the event.
“It brought out some new people and some members who haven’t come to CUNY-wide union protests,” PSC Vice President of Community Colleges Anne Friedman told Clarion. Chapter activists went to departmental meetings, distributed fliers and made phone calls to individual members. Since the action was held right on campus, Friedman said, “This was something that was hard to say ‘no’ to.”
Almost every department was represented, with math professors marching next to music faculty and CLTs from the business department. Jamie Munro, in his first year as a CUNY Start teacher, was among those who took part. “It obviously helps build solidarity, and it makes us not feel so alone,” Munro told Clarion.
As members marched through the hallways, some onlookers joined the demonstration, while others voiced support from the sidelines. Lisa Rose, professor of social science and human services, was among the marchers and said she was glad to see such a large turnout
“We have to show up,” Rose told Clarion. The union bargaining team can’t deliver a good contract without members standing behind them, she said: “We’re the union’s strength.”
President Pérez welcomed protesters into his office and expressed “100% support” for PSC members, who he called “the backbone of the university,” and said a prompt and fair settlement would be in everyone’s interest. “I’ve spoken with the chancellor, and I believe he’s very interested and intends to solve this problem,” Pérez told the demonstration.
At Bronx Community College, about 30 members joined an information picket outside the office of Interim President Eduardo Martí. Martí, who came out to speak with the union demonstrators, said that PSC members’ concerns need to be heard. Some students joined the picket, BCC Chapter Executive Committee member
Alex Wolf told Clarion, and as at BMCC some employees joined the action on the spur of the moment.
At an October 23 governance meeting for all faculty at Brooklyn College, attended by BC President Karen Gould, Chapter Vice Chair James Davis read out an open letter urging Gould “to do what you can to impress upon the chancellor and trustees that we need an economic offer now.” Chapter Chair Alex Vitale emphasized that “after four years without a raise” to pay schedules, “CUNY is losing out on hiring faculty and staff because of our uncompetitive salaries.”
The BC chapter also gathered hundreds of postcards from college faculty and staff to the mayor and governor, calling on them to support a fair economic offer. “It is imperative that the governor and the mayor put real resources on the table,” Vitale told the October 23 meeting.
Union chapters at Hunter, John Jay, City Tech, Kingsborough, Queensborough, York and other colleges also pressed the issue with their college presidents, in labor/management meetings or by letter, and with public outreach to other union members. LaGuardia Community College President Gail Mellow and a number of other campus-level leaders agreed that a new contract must be a priority.
Through petitions and postcards, vocal pickets and silent marches, PSC members took united action for a contract settlement; they made clear that they are not willing to just stand by and wait.
Cara O’Connor is in her first year of teaching social science at BMCC. At her second union chapter meeting, she joined the silent march. “It’s great to see so many disciplines coming together,” O’Connor told Clarion. “I noticed a sense of energy and pride, and that feels good.”