Green light for possible strike
A strike authorization vote called by the PSC Executive Council concluded on May 11 with the “yes” quotient weighing in at a resounding 92 percent. PSC President Barbara Bowen has pledged that no job action would take place before the fall semester, and she reiterated her hope that the union’s contract with CUNY – which expired longer than five years ago – would be settled before then.
“PSC members – by an astounding majority – have authorized the union leadership to initiate a strike,” said Bowen. “That has not happened in this union in 43 years. It should provide an incentive to CUNY to put a decent economic offer on the table – without further delay. A 92 percent vote demonstrates that the CUNY faculty and staff are willing to fight for the working conditions we deserve and the learning conditions our students deserve.”
“The union’s goal is to reach a fair contract without needing to strike, but CUNY’s substandard pay and conditions are endangering the university’s core mission of teaching, learning and research,” Bowen continued. “The union hopes to build on the growing public and legislative support for funding our contract, and we will do our utmost to reach an agreement through negotiations. But after six years without a raise, many of us are struggling to keep up with the cost of living for ourselves and alarmed at the threat to academic quality at CUNY.”
State-supervised mediation between the PSC and CUNY began on March 8, after CUNY declared an impasse in contract negotiations, refusing to respond to the PSC’s counterproposal to an economic offer described by Bowen as “insulting” and “inadequate.” (The total offer, including back pay for all of the years of no raises, amounted to 6 percent. It was made on the day the union held a disruptive action outside CUNY headquarters that ended with the arrests of 52 members.)
Any strike or work stoppage by the PSC would violate the New York State Taylor Law, which forbids strikes by public employees.
On October 15, Bowen announced the leadership’s decision to call a strike authorization vote, and PSC chapters began organizing. Union-wide actions continued apace, with a literary reading against austerity taking place in the Cooper Union’s Great Hall, a disruptive action outside Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Midtown office that resulted in 41 arrests, and rallies supported by the CUNY Rising alliance. Throughout the escalated contract campaign, the PSC has had the support of the city’s labor unions.
As voting began earlier this month, members stepped up activities for turning out the vote, both at PSC offices and at CUNY campuses. The organizing work alone added to the union’s strength. At The Graduate Center, chapter members crafted “voting booths” where members could cast their votes online. With the vote commencing the week of a significant Mexican holiday, the Hostos chapter brought a mariachi band to campus for a Cinco de Mayo celebration at which many members signaled their commitment to voting.
Votes were tallied on May 12 by the American Arbitration Association at its Manhattan offices.