On Minimum Wage Increase: Yet Again, Gov Fails to Invest in CUNY

Updated: May 18, 2016
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Low-wage staff members and student workers at the State University of New York will receive a much-needed increase in wages because of executive action taken today (January 4, 2016) by Governor Andrew Cuomo. But thousands of staff and student workers at the City University of New York are being denied the $15 minimum wage. Meanwhile, Governor Cuomo has continued to keep per-student funding at CUNY basically flat, leaving CUNY funding 14% below 2008 levels.

“Lifting the wage floor for fast-food workers, state employees and now SUNY workers is the right thing to do. Governor Cuomo listened to the growing demand from workers, students, labor unions, faith leaders and others. But singling out CUNY’s workers on the state payroll for exclusion is a monumental failure of progressive leadership. No institution embodies the progressive, pro-worker, anti-poverty goals of the minimum wage more than CUNY. No institution does more than CUNY to overcome the income inequality that the governor decries.” said Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress, the union of CUNY faculty and staff.

“The decision to exclude CUNY from the wage increase is a slap in the face to the thousands of low-wage workers whose labor helps to make a college education possible for CUNY’s 500,000 students. It is part of a pattern of refusing to invest the necessary funds in CUNY: the governor continues to deny any state funding for pay increases for CUNY’s academic staff, who have not had a raise in five years. Cuomo’s continuing refusal to invest in decent pay for CUNY workers is hurting the whole University. Full-time faculty are beginning to seek other jobs, and there are part-time faculty on food stamps because their CUNY salaries are so low,” Bowen continued.

BACKGROUND
The governor has called New York State “the progressive capital of the world,” yet he has continually failed to invest the necessary funds in CUNY, a lifeline of opportunity for working-class New Yorkers and people of color. Refusing to restore the 14% of State funding that CUNY has lost since the 2008 recession, Cuomo has kept per-student funding essentially flat and failed to invest in support for the faculty and staff. Thousands of CUNY workers are earning pay below $15 per hour, wages that the governor says “leaves far too many people behind, unacceptably condemning them to a life of poverty.” CUNY faculty and staff have gone five years without a raise, and more than half of CUNY classes are taught by part-time adjunct professors, some of whom live on their near-poverty CUNY wages.

The Professional Staff Congress (PSC/CUNY), affiliated with NYSUT, the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO, represents more than 25,000 faculty and professional staff at the City University of New York who haven’t had a contract in five years or a raise in six years.

CUNY is the country’s largest urban public university system. Its contracts are funded by both the State (75%) and the City (25%). CUNY workers are public employees. The union negotiates its contract with CUNY, but State and City contract patterns influence its terms. PSC-CUNY.ORG. @PSC_CUNY.