April 1 Message From President Bowen
Dear PSC Member,
Until early evening yesterday, the PSC was receiving word from legislators in Albany that the final State budget would include at least some funding for retroactive pay for our contract. That the Legislature was prepared to move toward fairness for us and for CUNY was the result of the extraordinary campaign the PSC waged this year. When the final agreement with Governor Cuomo was reached, however, all funding for our back-pay was eliminated.
Details of the agreement are not yet available, but the outlines are clear. The State budget for FY 2017 (which begins today) saves CUNY from the Governor’s proposed $485-million cut, but continues Albany’s policy of under-investment in CUNY and the students it serves. The budget fails to include any back-pay for CUNY employees and appears to include inadequate funds to replace revenue that would otherwise have come from increased tuition. While we welcome the elimination of yet another year of tuition increases, a budget that fails to replace needed funds ultimately shortchanges CUNY students.
In response to a reporter’s question last night, Cuomo’s budget director promised that funding for labor contracts at CUNY will be addressed when agreements are reached. The PSC will hold the Governor to that statement, and we urge CUNY management to move forward quickly on a reasonable economic offer. The union is committed to negotiating a fair contract, and we are prepared to work around the clock to achieve that goal. The legislative session does not end until June, and the PSC bargaining team will continue to work productively with the mediator appointed to our negotiations in order to reach a settlement without delay. We will expect both the State and the City to fund their full share of the costs.
At his press conference last night, Governor Cuomo declared that he and the two legislative leaders were “leaders in economic justice.” There are important gains for some working people in this budget, and the PSC was active in the campaign to win them. But I do not see the economic justice in a budget that adheres to a completely artificial requirement for economic austerity and fails to invest adequately in the public university that serves the working class.
Teachers in Chicago are on strike today demanding increased revenue for their schools, and the California Faculty Association has announced a strike for later this month. We in the PSC are not alone in our fight against austerity conditions for public schools and universities that serve predominantly working people and people of color.
Together we forced a reversal in the proposal to reduce or transfer responsibility for State funding for CUNY, and we came close to achieving funding for our contract. But we have not won that battle yet. The PSC will build on the power we have developed, starting today. We will focus intensely on achieving a fair resolution of our contract with full public funding. We will continue to organize for the strike authorization vote, and we will not stop demanding economic justice for our students. I am confident in the union membership. Thank you for your sustained support.