A nightmare scenario has arrived at our doorstep. Seventeen hundred adjuncts (and more to come) could lose their health insurance come next September due to the rising costs of health insurance, the low contribution by CUNY, and the City’s failure so far to include CUNY adjuncts in the municipal health insurance plan.
TIME TO FIGHT
The magic word here is “could” – it doesn’t have to be. The PSC is mounting an intense campaign to save adjunct health care. The PSC is you, and that doesn’t mean just adjuncts. Everyone – full-timers, retirees, students, alumni, you name it – anyone associated with CUNY should realize that this is a problem for all of us.
Why? Because a good university has to maintain certain minimum standards. Being an effective teacher requires decent medical care: this is a bottom line that any university of quality should instinctively respect.
When the conditions of employment are degraded, it adds fuel to the fires traversing this nation and destroying workers’ rights. Adjunct working conditions (low pay, lack of job security) are already bad enough. The PSC has been fighting to improve them – pushing uphill against CUNY’s resistance to non-economic as well as economic demands. Is 80th Street now going to say, “CUNY faculty can do without health insurance”? The whole University community needs to come together to say, “No – we will not accept this.”
CUNY blames the union and everybody blames the State and City for underfunding public higher education. But this is not a time to pass the buck – it’s a time for action to solve an urgent problem. We have to think of the issue in a new “frame,” as George Lakoff would say – a framework that puts our collective money where our values are, or should be. After all, adjunct faculty help students develop their potential, feed their curiosity and contribute more to the world – and that work deserves support.
That’s what this health insurance crisis is about. Providing health insurance is not a frill; it’s a basic obligation of any decent employer. CUNY has achieved so many innovative solutions to so many problems. This university can use its political capital to create conditions of which we can all be proud – not ashamed.
How, then, do we turn this threat around? We can create a tsunami of employee and public and student expression. If every adjunct speaks to a full-timer and a student, and every full-timer joins with students and adjuncts to speak to legislators, our voices will be heard.
Some PSC members may balk at talking to a stranger. The way adjuncts are treated as peripheral, even though they are the majority of CUNY faculty, can be a barrier. But now is the time…. We can and must reach out and work together in solidarity. We have to be as persistent about this as we are with our students when we encourage them to fight hopelessness and overwork, and help them to build new achievements.
Undermining adjunct working conditions affects department life and the conditions that full-timers face – ask any deputy chair how much they depend on adjuncts. Many full-timers have worked as adjuncts themselves. We are each other’s colleagues – and it’s time to stand up together and acknowledge that.
Our collective strength will surprise us. The Board of Trustees rally on September 26, is just the beginning.
RELATED COVERAGE: Adjunct Health Care: A Campaign We Can Win, FAQs on Adjunct Health Insurance, The Adjunct Health Care Crisis: A Welfare Fund Trustee’s Perspective, Views on the Crisis: PSC Members Speak Out and What You Can Do