Clarion Masthead

Bonus money, at last

A little can go far for members

This month, full-time PSC members received their $1,000 contract ratification bonuses and part-time faculty received their bonuses of varying amounts. Many members were disappointed by how much tax the administration withheld (see note at end). Nevertheless, members from across the University system and in many different titles spoke to Clarion about how they were going to spend their bonus money. Here’s how some of them are looking forward to using the extra cash.

Eben Wood
Professor of English
Kingsborough Community College

I plan to use my ratification bonus, along with the anticipated back pay – when it’s finally disbursed – to add to the savings I’ve managed to make since being hired at CUNY in 2004. As housing costs eat up an increasing percentage of our actual earnings, and as the New York City housing market continues to intensify, building equity through apartment or home ownership is more and more an imperative. The inability to adequately invest in that equity is one sad consequence of the long-term starvation of CUNY as an institution, with effects felt not just by faculty seeking affordable housing in the areas of the city in which they work, but on the overall demographics of the city.

Amy Jeu
College Laboratory Technician
Hunter College

Amy Jeu
Amy Jeu

The $1,000 ratification bonus will come as a small relief to replenish my rainy day fund and pay bills, but a significant portion will be spent on photography and videography equipment. Learning a trade and being skillfully proficient at it requires time and money for training and first-rate equipment. To me, it’s an investment in myself, lifelong learning, developing marketable and transferrable skills and advancing my career. I will also use the money to further my hobby in paper quilling.

Samir Chopra
Professor of Philosophy
Brooklyn College

I’ll just put that $1,000 in my daughter’s 529 savings account. I have no idea how we are actually going to pay for her education down the line given the continuing attack on public education, but I’m hoping to prepare as best as I can for the worst. Alternatively, we could use it to do some much-needed repairs on our apartment.

Robert Nelson
Higher Education Officer
Graduate Center

What I am doing with my bonus, or actually what’s left after taxes, is putting it into my retirement savings. For those of us in the Optional Retirement Plan (TIAA, Halliday), our pension is determined by how much we have been able to sock away over the years. But the long delay in winning raises has cost us dearly in lower retirement savings. When we get our bonus in October and retroactive pay in January, CUNY will pay the same percentage of it into our retirement fund as it pays for every paycheck. But we will never see the growth our pension accounts would have achieved with that money during the years our raises were delayed. That’s a significant loss. So in September, I increased the amount that is being withheld from my paycheck and put into my retirement savings by as much as I possibly can afford.

Robert Farrell
PSC Chapter Chair
Lehman College

Robert Farrell
02-IMG_1641.jpg

Many staff and faculty are depending on their ratification bonus to cover essential expenses given that we won’t receive our raises or back pay until January. But others may be in a position to use it in other ways. I’m going to donate my bonus to the PSC’s militancy fund and I’d like to encourage others who can to do so, too. We know that our collective action is what won us our contract. Now is the time to invest in the actions that we’ll need to take going forward. The fund provides some level of support for members to engage in designated militant actions of the union.

Laurel Kallen
Adjunct Lecturer in English
Lehman College

The sober reality is that it will go toward paying our monthly bills, including student loans that have been plaguing us for decades. Alas, our weekend in Paris will just have to wait.

Donna Scimeca
Higher Education Officer
College of Staten Island

I’m going to be treating my partner to a romantic getaway weekend right outside New Paltz. We wanted something romantic and historic, so we’ll rent bikes and do one of those rail trails. His birthday is at the end of October.

NOTE: Claiming it is unable to calculate 35,000 employees’ revised biweekly tax withholding rates, CUNY followed IRS rules for applying a standard federal withholding rate (25 percent) along with standard state and city rates to each employee’s gross bonus amount (totaling approximately 39 percent). Combined with regular Social Security withholding, pension, TDA, transit and union dues deductions, the net value of many employees’ bonuses dropped to less than half of the gross. Most employees will get the higher withholding back or will be credited at tax time.