The new issue of Clarion, which will be in campus mailboxes this week, includes a report on contract negotiations, and we invite members to read the Clarion article as well as this update.
Here is where negotiations stand:
• Labor and management representatives have held nine formal bargaining sessions and many other informal discussions since negotiations began. The next formal session is scheduled for October 4. Click here if you would like to attend this session or future sessions as an observer.
• Bargaining sessions have been productive, but CUNY management has not yet made an economic offer. The major issues in this contract are likely to be economic; therefore much of the discussion about demands remains preliminary. The union has pressed for more frequent sessions and for an economic offer. Meanwhile, other NY public-sector contracts have been ratified with annual increases in the 2-percent range.
• We have also made it clear that Albany’s practice of not funding new contracts and leaving agencies to fund the raises out of existing budgets is unacceptable. CUNY must not be forced to cannibalize academic programs to fund a contract; and existing agreements, such as the teaching load reduction, must be funded.
• PSC members will have a chance to put power behind the bargaining team’s economic message on Thursday, September 27, when the union will hold a contract demonstration on Wall Street. Wall Street and its political backers are hoarding wealth while CUNY and those who work there are being starved of funds. That is not right. Come out on September 27 and make that message heard. Demand an economic offer, demand better salaries, demand a fully funded contract.
• During the nine bargaining sessions held so far, the PSC has finished presentation of almost all of the union’s bargaining demands, on both economic and non-economic issues, and has offered detailed support for each.
• In this round of bargaining the union has focused on salaries. We have shown how the real-dollar value of CUNY salaries has eroded over time, and we have called for competitive salaries for all full-time titles. A university that recruits nationally and claims to be “the greatest urban university in the world” should not be paying substandard salaries.
• The PSC has also made an ambitious proposal to institute fair pay for adjuncts by raising adjunct pay to $7,000 per course. The minimum adjunct pay at Rutgers and Penn State is in the $5,000 to $6,000 range; Fordham just negotiated a contract with $7,000 to $8,000 per course for adjuncts. At CUNY the minimum is $3,222. Yet CUNY is more reliant on part-time faculty than almost any other major university.
• The bargaining team has made it clear that solving the crisis in adjunct salaries will require additional funding, beyond the typical contract settlement. The funding must be an addition to the rest of the economic package. CUNY’s poverty-level adjunct pay is grossly unfair to adjuncts and damaging to students’ education. But it also undermines full-time employees: low adjunct pay helps to depress wages for full-time faculty and staff, and provides a disincentive to hire more full-time faculty. The demand for $7K is a demand for the whole union.
• The PSC has also called for important changes in areas other than salary, including granting tuition waivers to the children of full-time employees; adding paid family leave for all faculty and staff to the paid parental leave we won for full-time employees in 2009; providing better support for department chairs; improving the process of attaining salary differentials for HEOs; making improvements in the existing three-year appointments for adjuncts; obtaining funding for further improvements in dental and prescription drug benefits; and more.
• CUNY management has presented a formal list of demands but has, so far, stressed only a few demands as priorities. Among them is a demand to allow full-time faculty to count summer teaching as part of the annual teaching load--and thus to open the door to an academic calendar with year-round teaching for full-time faculty and no summer annual leave. As you can imagine, the union has raised serious concerns about this demand.
• The PSC bargaining team has begun holding conversations with department chairs and other full-time faculty to discuss CUNY management’s demand on summer teaching. We are considering whether to make a counterproposal that might address specific, limited situations.
• The union bargaining team recognizes that the idea of spreading out the teaching load over the full year could be initially appealing to overworked faculty, and that certain departments and programs may have special reasons for being interested in such a change. But we also know the history of allowing management to make an incremental change that soon becomes a structural disaster. Treating the summer as part of the annual workload year could lead to increased work demands year-round and could eventually spell the end of the summer annual leave, the only sustained opportunity for research most full-time faculty have. If you have thoughts on the issue, we want to know! Contact your chapter chair with your reactions.
• The PSC’s bargaining agenda is ambitious, but we have a history of winning ambitious demands. Contract negotiations are not about what happens at the bargaining table, they are about power. In every contract battle we have faced, the union has found that management moves only when we take collective action. It’s as simple as this: the more people who come out on September 27, the more power the bargaining team will have at the table. If you want us to have the power to increase salaries, win better benefits, protect your job security, and end the shameful rate of adjunct pay, be there.