Fall Safe and Healthy Workplace Campaign

Updated: September 3, 2021
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Classes started Wednesday, August 25 at most CUNY colleges, 17 months after the COVID shutdown. Many professional staff began schedules that include some in-person work the week of August 16. The reopening has been safer and more cautious because of the persistent advocacy of PSC members, and while important concerns remain unaddressed, we have moved CUNY Central and the college administrations. Over 200 union health and safety watchdogs have participated in walkthroughs of campus worksites, identified threats to health and safety, and held CUNY accountable to reducing risks. We negotiated a Remote Work Agreement that gives workers additional agency in setting schedules, empowered members to seek accommodations, when necessary, and informed members of their right to challenge a denied ADA accommodation through the NYC Commission on Human Rights. 

Together we have built the power to ensure that many unsafe facilities have been taken offline or remediated. We’ve successfully shifted CUNY from an honor system for mask-wearing to a real mask mandate. The August 2 return date for professional staff was pushed back to August 16. At Lehman College and Queens College, for example, most professional staff who are not designated “essential” are not returning to in-person work until September 14.  Colleges have allowed greater flexibility about when and how often in-person classes must meet. The concerns we have publicized about having unvaccinated students in classrooms have led some colleges to issue guidance to have classes with unvaccinated students increase social distance by relocating to larger rooms or remain online until all students in the class are vaccinated or the October 7 vaccination deadline passes. Some departments in Baruch’s Zicklin School of Business have moved in-person classes online until the student vaccination mandate is in effect. Concurrent organizing and pressure has also averted the cancellation of many (not all) under-enrolled courses, preserving students’ schedules and faculty employment. 

As the Delta variant has emerged in New York, we’ve pressed CUNY in local and university wide labor-management meetings, organized protests to demand better COVID protocols on campuses, mobilized allies in the State Legislature and the City Council, and generated strong media coverage of the struggle for a safe return at CUNY. Union members rallied this week at CUNY Central and at Hunter College, and our most recent efforts have been reported by Fox 5, NY1, ABC 7, Gotham Gazette, the Daily Eagle and the Chronicle of Higher Education

Yet we must do more. CUNY’s testing policy for unvaccinated individuals requires a negative test every seven days, when the more infectious Delta variant has made a three-day requirement the best practice. Some colleges are requiring six feet of social distance only for unvaccinated individuals, who are expected to self-identify. CUNY has not initiated a program of surveillance testing to detect breakthrough infections. And CUNY lacks a university-wide, public plan for how to scale back or suspend in-person activities if community spread of the Delta variant continues to increase. We need that plan, and it must include infection-rate thresholds that trigger specific actions in offices, labs, and classrooms.   

Join the Health and Safety Watchdogs or attend your union chapter’s next meeting to help keep CUNY safe.  


Write the Chancellor: CUNY Must Improve Safety Measures.  Send this letter pressing our demands to shut down inadequately remediated spaces, reduce the density of people on campus, expand testing and enforce six feet of social distancing by everyone in all spaces occupied by both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. 

Join the PSC's Safe Return Flying Squad.  We're building "flying squads" of activists who will be available to join safe reopening demonstrations. Squad members should be prepared to respond quickly during the summer to calls to take part in actions on any campus where administrators have not scheduled pre-occupancy walkthroughs or addressed threats to health and safety that PSC members have identified.

Be Trained to do Health & Safety Walkthroughs. The PSC Environmental Health & Safety Watchdogs have trained 200 PSC members to accompany campus facilities staff and administrators on pre-occupancy walkthroughs to confirm the safety of facilities that are planned for reopening.




Jackie Elliot  (JElliot@citytech.cuny.edu)

  • York
  • City Tech
  • Brooklyn EOC
  • Medgar Evers
  • Kingsborough 

Joan Greenbaum (joanbaum@ix.netcom.com):

  • Hostos 
  • John Jay
  • LaGuardia
  • Lehman
  • BMCC

Susan Fountain (shfountain@gmail.com):

  • GC (SLU, SPS, McCauley, School of Journalism)
  • CUNY Central Office 
  • City College 
  • Bronx EOC 
  • BCC
  • Guttman
  • Manhattan EOC

Jean Grassman (jean.grassman@yahoo.com):

  • GC (GC, SPH, ASRC) 
  • CSI 
  • Hunter
  • Queens
  • Baruch
  • Queensborough
  • Queens EOC

Brian Graf (bgraf@pscmail.org):

  • HCCS 
  • RF 
  • General Assistance