Hundreds of layoffs threatened Tuesday. Fight back!

Updated: July 2, 2020
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Dear PSC Members,

The layoff crisis the union has been anticipating has begun. It is a crisis for all of us, whether we are full-time or part-time, faculty or staff, because it reveals CUNY management’s willingness to treat employees as disposable and to betray the mission of the University.

It is unconscionable that a public university serving the city’s most vulnerable population would jettison its most vulnerable workers in the middle of a pandemic and a recession. The CUNY administration is exploiting the contingent labor system to make what are expected to be deep cuts in the University’s workforce.

The deadline for informing adjuncts about whether they will be employed next semester is this Tuesday. The PSC has received notice from CUNY that 422 adjuncts currently covered by adjunct health insurance will lose their eligibility for health insurance for the fall 2020 semester as a result of a reduction in hours or a non-reappointment. 422 is a devastating number, but it represents only the adjuncts who are currently on health insurance through the NYC plan and are expected to lose it in the fall. The total number of adjunct layoffs on Tuesday could be hundreds or even thousands more.

Cutting hundreds or thousands of employees is not business as usual. It is an attack on all of us as PSC members and on the students we serve. That’s why we need every member to be part of this fight.

One quick thing you can do immediately: sign the petition calling on the CUNY administration to stop layoffs and maintain health insurance.

The union does not have the names or departments of the adjuncts expected to lose health insurance. We have only a chart provided by CUNY management, which lists the number per campus. You will see that some colleges did “make every effort” to keep adjuncts on health insurance, as the chancellor affirmed in a legal agreement. Others clearly did not.

We understand that this news will be shocking and deeply anxiety-provoking for adjuncts currently on health insurance and for all adjuncts who have not yet received notice of reappointment. Please know that the PSC is fully committed to fighting for every one of you. The union will fight now and next week and throughout the summer to restore your employment if you are non-reappointed and to maintain your health insurance. We will not let CUNY management normalize mass layoffs as an inevitable fact of contingent life or an acceptable consequence of the pandemic.

Because of the PSC’s negotiations to establish adjunct health insurance, adjuncts who were on health insurance in both fall and spring semesters will retain their coverage through August. But the pandemic is far from over, and the union is fighting for the coverage to continue. Adjuncts, you have 30,000 PSC members at your back. As union leaders, we cannot promise that we will win, but we stand firm in the position that layoffs at CUNY are not acceptable and that no one should lose health insurance in a pandemic.

The PSC has been building power in anticipation of this news for months. Everything we have done to demand safety on campuses, fair treatment of those working remotely and transparency about college budgets has contributed to this fight. At several colleges union activists have succeeded in reducing the planned cuts and layoffs.

Now we call on everyone to take a stand and demand that CUNY back down from this cruel and shortsighted plan. The union will give the campaign everything we have through Tuesday, and the Executive Council will announce in the next few days how the fight will escalate if the layoffs are made.

  • If you are on Twitter, click here and here to send tweets tagging the chancellor and CUNY, or send your own messages to the chancellor and your college president.

The fight against layoffs is a fight for all of us. The stronger we are in our resistance on this issue, the better position we will be in to resist reopening of campuses before they are safe, to defend academic programs and student services, to campaign for the resources our students need, to protect our contractual gains.

And don’t think CUNY management has no alternative. The CUNY administration could take a public stand to defend the University in this crisis rather than presiding over its destruction. Congress has allocated $132 million in federal CARES Act funds to CUNY colleges for “institutional needs.” The law requires that colleges and universities receiving such funding make every effort to keep employees on payroll during the pandemic. Why is the CARES Act money not being used to avert thousands of lost jobs and lost courses? Scores of New York legislators joined us in demanding answers to that question in a public letter sent yesterday to the CUNY administration. And the PSC is preparing for legal action on the basis of the CARES Act.

This is a tough battle, literally against State power. It is a battle for our own jobs and health if we are adjuncts, a battle for essential colleagues if we are not. It is also a battle for our students, whose university has suffered from a long history of racist disinvestment that should be repudiated, not repeated, now. If you do one thing to join the campaign this weekend, please add your name to the petition. We will be proud to put our names next to yours.

In unity,
Barbara Bowen
Andrea Vásquez
Sharon Persinger
Nivedita Majumdar
Michael Batson
Lorraine Cohen
James Davis
Iris DeLutro
Myrlene Dieudonne
Susan DiRaimo
Jacqueline Elliott
Luke Elliott-Negri
Michael Fabricant
Meg Kallman Feeley
Joan Greenbaum
David Hatchett
Steve Leberstein
Penny Lewis
Steve London
Howard Meltzer
George Emilio Sanchez
Michael Spear
Alia Tyner-Mullings
Sharon Utakis
Blanca Vázquez
Janet Winter