Part-time Instructional Staff

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THE COMMITTEE FOR PART-TIME INSTRUCTIONAL STAFF is a standing committee of the Delegate Assembly. It is responsible for the consideration of problems and the recommendations of policies related to the part-time instructional staff. The chairperson of this committee shall be the Vice President for the Part-Time Instructional Staff.


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Part-Time and Contingent Faculty and Staff Represented by the PSC

CUNY depends on the labor of thousands of part-time and contingent faculty and staff. Despite the University’s self-representation as a place where tenured research faculty are valued for the time they can spend with students, CUNY continues to increase the number of faculty and staff in non-secure or “contingent” positions, and to create new programs staffed largely or entirely with contingent faculty. As a university in New York City, CUNY is fortunate to be able to draw on an exceptional talent pool of academics, artists, professionals and others to fill its thousands of part-time positions.

The PSC’s “bargaining unit,” or universe of employees the union represents, includes part-time, hourly and contingent employees in a complicated series of titles and work locations. The PSC has traditionally included all such employees in the designation “Part-Time Personnel,” even though many “part-timers” work full-time hours—and more. The list below, reflecting Fall 2013 totals, provides a picture of who these members are.

Teaching Adjuncts: 10,265
Non-Teaching Adjuncts: 1,122
Graduate Assistants: 1,749
Adjunct CLTs: 551
Continuing Education Teachers (CET): 959
Substitute Full-Time Titles: 389

(For the above totals, an individual employee is counted only once even if s/he works in two different job titles. Thus if a graduate employee is also in a teaching adjunct title, s/he is reported as a graduate employee only. If an adjunct is also in a continuing education title, s/he is reported as an adjunct. PSC bargaining unit members who are in full-time titles and also are employed in a part-time or hourly title are not counted.)

Because of the conditions and insecurity of contingent work, faculty and staff in these positions often move from one title into another. For example, a graduate assistant may move from that title to an adjunct title, or an adjunct may move to a substitute title for several semesters and then back into an adjunct title.

It would be a mistake to assume that the working conditions or life circumstances of all CUNY contingent employees are the same. Of the more than 10,000 teaching adjuncts, approximately 2,000 to 3,000 derive most of their income from their work at CUNY and have offered long-term service, often for a decade or more. The majority of teaching adjuncts and CETs, however, have other employment or income. Many adjuncts, for example, are full-time NYC K-12 teachers or retirees from the City school system or CUNY. Most teaching adjuncts—70%—are in the Adjunct Lecturer title. More than a quarter of adjuncts are Adjunct Assistant, Associate or full Professors. Adjuncts teach at senior and community colleges as well as at CUNY’s Educational Opportunity Centers.

Continuing Education Teachers include some who work full time (e.g. CLIP and CUNYStart Teachers) and many who teach one or more continuing education courses. Continuing Education courses may meet for a semester or for only a few weeks. Graduate employees are doctoral and master’s students who are employed by the University, some on annual contracts as graduate assistants, and others on semester-long contracts as adjuncts. Some work in both positions.

PSC Bargaining Approach to Equity

From the start, it has been a central goal of the current leadership of the PSC to end the two-tier academic labor system at CUNY. Reliance on an underpaid and contingent workforce for the majority of undergraduate teaching harms the adjuncts themselves, offers insufficient support to students, and undermines working conditions for full-time employees. Our goal has proven extraordinarily difficult to achieve, for both economic and ideological reasons. CUNY is affected by the defunding, rationing of quality education, and centralization of power that have characterized American higher education for the last three decades. State funding to public universities has been cut by more than 40 percent since 1980, and a primary result has been the substitution of underpaid part-time faculty for better-paid full-time faculty. The goal of the union leadership, however, remains unchanged: to achieve equity in pay and benefits for part-time and contingent employees, and to negotiate job security for their positions.

Contract settlements ultimately involve reaching agreement with CUNY about the allocation of a designated economic package. The union has a responsibility to represent the needs of all of its members, and has represented adjuncts vigorously. Since 2000 and through three contractual settlements and numerous contract enforcement actions, the PSC leadership has sought to expand the rights of adjuncts and other contingent employees and to focus limited resources where there are the greatest inequities. While the gains made for adjuncts and other contingent employees are incremental and have not yet dismantled the two-tiered labor system, they are significant both locally and nationally. Some have represented breakthroughs in conditions for part-timers.

Rights and Benefits Won for Part-Time and Contingent Faculty and Staff Since 2000

  • Equity pay increases—above the across-the board rate—for all adjunct titles and all graduate assistant titles
  • Sustained adjunct health insurance for eligible adjuncts
  • Health insurance for graduate employees on an equity basis with SUNY
  • Graduate Center tuition remission for CUNY doctoral students who serve as graduate assistants
  • A professional hour at full pay for adjuncts teaching six hours at the same college
  • Full pay for the 15 weeks of the semester for teaching adjuncts at all CUNY colleges
  • 200 new full-time faculty positions created exclusively for long-serving adjuncts
  • Equity increase in the minimum pay rate for Continuing Education Teachers
  • Thousands of professional development grants for adjuncts and other contingent faculty
  • Longevity increases for CLIP and other Continuing Education Teachers
  • Ability for Continuing Education Teachers to use of up to 3 days of sick leave for care of ill family members
  • Right to campus library privileges for Continuing Education Teachers
  • Personal emergency leave for adjuncts at 1/15 of total number of clock hours in a semester
  • Tuition waivers for one course per semester for eligible adjuncts
  • Right to notification of salary rate for adjuncts and right to full retroactive pay if the hourly rate of pay they receive is incorrect
  • Right to college communication resources where available for teaching adjuncts
  • Letters of yearly appointment after six consecutive semesters in the same department
  • Counting substitute service for adjunct eligibility for health insurance, salary schedule movement, and tuition waivers
  • Eligibility for Transit Checks to purchase MetroCards with pre-tax dollars
  • Defeat of management attempt to establish lower-tier salary structure for EOC adjuncts

Health Insurance

Graduate assistants, teaching adjuncts and non-teaching adjuncts have identified health insurance as a priority. Gaining and maintaining health insurance for these members has been a major focus of the PSC in both the bargaining and political spheres. When the current leadership took office in 2000, graduate assistants did not have health insurance and adjunct health insurance was very under-funded and on life support. Continuing Education Teachers who work 20 or more hours per week and have an assignment that will last for at least six months had full access to the New York City health plan.

The union bargained with CUNY to gain health insurance coverage for more than 2,000 graduate employees that is comparable to coverage for graduate students at SUNY. We have also enforced the health insurance provision for Continuing Education Teachers when necessary.

Adjunct health insurance has required a significant amount of time and struggle by the entire union membership. Adjunct health insurance is offered through the PSC-CUNY Welfare Fund. It is very costly and inefficient to do it this way, and the PSC has long argued that adjunct health insurance should be offered through a public-employee benefits plan, as it is for full-timers. Through concerted membership activism, including courageous testimony by adjuncts themselves, the PSC convinced CUNY to provide significant resources to move adjunct health insurance to a large public-employee plan. With the full support of CUNY, the union is working to conclude the fourteen-year struggle to accomplish this goal. It has been possible only because we have gained the support of the entire membership.

Democratic Representation within the PSC

An important aspect of insuring equity outcomes is to have democratic representation within the union. Before the current leadership took office in 2000, part-timers were barely represented and were invisible within the union—despite numbering in the thousands. The union leadership and staff have sought to create democratic representation for all parts of the bargaining unit, including adjuncts, professional staff and full-time faculty. The union is strongest when all voices are heard. Upon assuming leadership, the PSC governing bodies enacted changes that would ensure greater representation for adjuncts and contingent employees in the union. Because of these changes the union’s adjunct and contingent voting membership has increased and become more representative of adjuncts’ importance to the University. These are the actions that were taken:

  • Introduction of percentage-based dues for all members, replacing an unfair system of flat amounts
  • Inclusion of contingent employees in agency fee collection
  • Positions for adjuncts and contingent employees on the Executive Council were increased from one to four, with additional part-timers serving in other categories.
  • Three adjunct grievance counselors dedicated to advising adjuncts and other contingent workers
  • Adjuncts and other contingent workers have been integrated into the leadership of campus-based chapters
  • Adjunct, graduate assistant, and continuing education liaison positions on the campuses were created and funded by the central union