Mobilization Yields Results
It was a win initially deemed likely to take months when CUNY Research Foundation management sat down with the bargaining team of the PSC RF Field Units Chapter, which represents RF staff at three campuses: LaGuardia Community College, New York City College of Technology, and the CUNY Graduate Center. But the PSC RF team came away with an agreement on a three-year extension of the five-year contract that was set to expire.
The extension includes continuation of the 2 percent per year wage increases for each of the next three years and management agreeing not to increase the contribution rate for employees to their health-care coverage.
“It was better than we thought [it would be] because, originally, they were asking for concessions,” said Calvin Patterson, a member of the PSC RF bargaining team.
Laying The Groundwork
In the end, PSC RF negotiators held the line at 19 percent on their health plan contribution rate, while Research Foundation employees on campuses not represented by PSC will have to contribute some 21 percent of the cost of their health insurance premiums.
At the final bargaining session, “management agreed that the contractual 2 percent [annual] raises constitute a floor…,” reported Arsenia Reilly-Collins, PSC coordinator of contract administration and outreach, who worked with the bargaining team. “Where they can, we hope PIs will pay larger increases.”
In addition to Patterson, the PSC RF bargaining team includes Olga Jimenez, Lisa Molero, Darren Kwong and Donna Thompson-Ray at the Graduate Center; Roxana Astorga and Martie Flores at City Tech; and Eric Guzman, Frederick John, Migdalia Ramos and Miosotys Rivera at LaGuardia.
The key to getting to yes, said Patterson, was mobilization.
“When people teach you mobilization, you learn to quantify support, interest and solidarity – which is really difficult to quantify,” Patterson told Clarion. “But when the groundwork has been done, when you organize and bring people on board, it’s visible, and you can share those numbers.”
PSC activists began organizing in the months leading up to negotiations by simply making themselves visible, wearing red PSC buttons in the workplace. They then escalated to wearing red T-shirts bearing the message: psc members are the real foundation of CUNY.
Members also signed a petition that was re-imagined as a handbill-sized piece of graphic art, printed on red stock and filled at all angles with the signatures of those who backed the petition. The text read, in part: “We the undersigned proudly stand with our colleagues on the bargaining team as they negotiate with the CUNY Research Foundation....”
Some 85 percent of PSC RF members – comprising both full-time and part-time staff – signed that statement of support.
“Since this was a public petition, members thought it would be good to put it together in a way that would stand out [when] plastered on campus, on bulletin boards or passed around at gatherings,” said Reilly-Collins. “We thought it would be great to have it reflect the creativity of so many of our members.”
Of the surprising timing of management’s offer, Patterson, an applied client services manager at the City Tech Workforce Development Center, said with a laugh: “I’m kind of disappointed that we didn’t get to have those rallies that we had planned.”
Ratification ballots have been mailed to RF union members and are due back at the PSC Office on July 9 to be counted.
[Update: The RF vote was counted on July 9. The contract was ratified overwhelmingly, with 103 voting yes, 3 voting no and 1 ballot voided.]