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With Meetings, Letters and Radio Ads, PSC Members Take Case to Albany

PSC activists have been hard at work on many fronts to win fair funding for CUNY in this year’s budget fight. In public protests and private meetings, individual letters and radio broadcasts, faculty and staff have pressed legislators to provide the support that CUNY – and those who work and study there – deserve.

Bronx Community College’s PSC chapter chair, Sharon Persinger, and a student meet with a State lawmaker on the need for fair funding for CUNY. The meeting was one of 125 in a joint student-faculty-staff grassroots lobby day.
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In coalition with student groups and with the PSC’s state affiliate New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), PSC members traveled repeatedly to Albany in February and March to take their case to legislators and aides. A joint student-faculty-staff lobby day on February 26 brought nine buses to the State Capitol, and saw 125 meetings with policy makers. On March 2, PSC activists joined 1,000 New York State United Teachers members at a “Moral Mondays” protest inside the State Capitol building.

Six Hundred Times

As budget discussions unfolded, two PSC radio ads were in heavy rotation in the Albany area and in New York City, airing nearly 600 times in all. The first focused on past promises to cover CUNY’s existing costs, telling listeners that “Albany’s latest budget proposal leaves CUNY millions of dollars short.” With a look back at CUNY graduates such as Dr. Jonas Salk, who led development of the polio vaccine, and famed actress and activist Ruby Dee, the ad concludes: “The next generation of inventors, scientists and writers is sitting in our classrooms right now. Will they get their chance to change the world? At CUNY, we’ve kept our promise. Albany, it’s time to keep yours.”

(Listen to the radio ad here.)

A second radio ad contrasted the national praise for CUNY’s ASAP initiative, which has more than doubled graduation rates for participating community college students, with the continued lack of raises or a new contract at CUNY.

PSC members have sent thousands of messages to their legislators, backing the union’s budget plan. “Albany has broken its promises. Students, their families and the entire CUNY community deserve better,” wrote Jeffrey Butts, a Higher Education Officer at John Jay College. “Since joining CUNY in 2010, I have raised nearly $10 million in foundation and federal research grants. Yet I haven’t had a pay raise in five years. I love New York and CUNY, but it gets harder to stay here each year under these circumstances.”

“Let’s face it: we have no oil in New York State,” wrote Ekaterina Sukhanova, who has worked at CUNY since 2005. “Our economy relies on having a well-trained workforce ready to work in fields requiring a college degree.”

“I attended City College when it was free. I could not attend under today’s onerous conditions,” wrote Peter Jonas, a retiree from LaGuardia Community College. “Do your part to move CUNY forward,” Jonas urged. “Please keep the promise: fully fund CUNY.”

PSC officers who met with legislative leaders said that the union’s message – in visits to Albany, in member letters, in mass media and social media – was being heard. But while the call for fair funding was winning support from many legislators, the outcome still hung in the balance.

Political Pressure

“We need a State budget for CUNY that restores funding for community colleges and covers basic annual senior-college cost increases for energy, rent, fringe benefits and collective bargaining,” said PSC First Vice President Steve London.

“As the Legislature proceeds to negotiate next year’s budget, we need to keep up the pressure,” London said. “Our members have sent more than 2,200 letters to legislators urging them to keep Albany’s promises to CUNY students, faculty and staff. But we need more!” If you haven’t yet sent a letter, London said, “Now is the time.”

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