October 28, 2009

Higher education unionists, supporters rally against cuts to CUNY

Source: NYSUT News Wire
rally in the streets of nyc

Photo by Dave Sanders

United University Professions, the United Federation of Teachers and other NYSUT members joined the Professional Staff Congress, staff and students on the streets of Manhattan Tuesday to protest Gov. Paterson's proposed $53 million budget cut at the City University of New York.

Community colleges at CUNY and the State University of New York also face potential cuts of $33 million.

More than 300 unionists and students marched in a steady drizzle to the beat of a bass drum, from the Hunter College campus to Central Park. Motorists honked in support as a police escort stopped rush-hour traffic to allow the marchers to proceed in an unbroken line along East 68th Street that stretched for two blocks.

Chants of "The union united will never be defeated," and "Students, faculty, staff, unite – same struggle, same fight!" filled the air along with protest signs as pedestrians made way for the marchers.

The governor has already axed $90 million from the SUNY budget in the last two weeks, and NYSUT and its higher education locals are urging the legislature to restore that money. But the proposed cuts to CUNY and the community colleges require legislative approval, and higher education unionists want the legislature to reject them. The Legislaure has scheduled a special session for Nov. 10 and is expected to consider the governor's request for the cuts then.

United University Professions represents more than 35,000 academic faculty and staff at SUNY; the United Federation of Teachers, represents more than 200,000 teachers and professional staff in the the New York City public schools. Dozens of students from New York City public schools and colleges; and grassroots community activist groups representing parents and public school students also joined the rally.

"Now is the time we should be supporting schools, now is the is time to be building schools,"

NYSUT Executive Vice President Alan Lubin shouted to the crowd, as his listeners cheered and shouted.

NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira and UUP President Phil Smith joined PSC President Barbara Bowen at the podium on Fifth Avenue, along Central Park.

"There is tremendous power when we all come together with a single message: Hands off higher ed!" Bowen told the crowd. "I'm tired of the attack on us, because that's what it is – an attack on every family, every person who relies on public education, and an attack on every student who hears, 'Stay in school.'"

The rally and march capped two days of union action in New York City as part of NYSUT's campaign to stave off the cuts at CUNY and the community colleges, and to urge lawmakers to restore the $90 million to SUNY. Representatives of NYSUT and its higher education locals testified about the cuts at a hearing Monday by the State Senate, and testified last week before a special hearing of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.