CUNY refuses PSC demand; PSC fights back

Updated: March 18, 2020
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This afternoon the PSC leadership met with Chancellor Matos Rodríguez and his senior staff to present the union’s formal demands in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

While we reached agreement on some issues and made progress on others, CUNY management refused our first and most important demand: that all PSC-represented employees begin immediately to work remotely.

We described the disaster that the University’s current unclear, unsafe, ad hoc patchwork plan has been. We recounted the stories you have told us about the danger colleges have exposed you to as recently as today, demanding meetings of multiple workers in small rooms, calling workers in for trainings that could easily be done online, senselessly keeping libraries open when public libraries across the city closed days ago. The answer was still no.

The chancellor also refused our demand that his office establish a single protocol for all CUNY colleges, rather than leaving life-and-death decisions to individual presidents.

Meanwhile, another confirmed case of COVID-19 was identified at Guttman today, making it the latest in an alarming series of confirmed cases at CUNY. Clearly, CUNY’s mitigating measures came too late. The decision to move to distance learning for all classes was a good one, and a move the union demanded. But now, almost a week after face-to-face classes have stopped, thousands of our CUNY colleagues are still being exposed to danger every time they come to work, when with a little imagination and will, almost all on-campus work could be reconfigured and performed remotely.

The union is going to fight. The PSC cannot allow our members to be put in serious danger every time they are on campus.

We are asking you to contact your college president as soon as you read this message. The message: All work by PSC-represented employees must be performed remotely, without further delay. Lives are at stake.

Lehman College, Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center have essentially closed operations on site, in some cases maintaining only a food pantry. It can be done. These colleges have found ways to ensure that their work continues remotely. Every CUNY college must now do the same. If the college where you work is still refusing to protect its employees, please send a message to the college president tonight or first thing in the morning. We have to move quickly.

Click here for a list of college presidents’ email addresses and Twitter handles, and send your message now. Please also send a copy to the PSC at psc@pscmail.org.

Members of the teaching faculty, adjuncts and full-time faculty alike: Please add your voice to support your colleagues, even though you are no longer required to come to campus. This is everyone’s issue.

PSC members want to work. We want to continue to serve our students. We are more committed to them than most management personnel can even imagine. But we should not have to put our lives and the health of the city in danger by being ordered to come to work in a city that is rapidly shutting down.

If the chancellor insists that the college presidents must make the decisions, then let’s blast the presidents with messages that demand they stop putting us in danger. The college presidents must be told that in a global health emergency, everyone’s primary obligation is to protect public health.

Please send your message now. Discussions with the chancellor are going on now, even as I write this at 10:30 p.m., and I am hopeful that we can reach a solution that puts CUNY on the right side of history. The PSC will fight until every one of our members is protected.

In solidarity,
Barbara Bowen
President, PSC/CUNY