June 2016 Issue - Labor Issues
June 28, 2016

PSC, CUNY reach contract deal

Source: NYSUT United

A tentative contract deal has been reached between members of the NYSUT-affiliated Professional Staff Congress and the City University of New York, ending a long period of labor strife marked by frequent protest marches and high-profile arrests.

CUNY faculty and professional staff — who for more than six years have worked without a raise — would see a 10-percent raise over the span of the tentative pact which, as of press time, was still subject to a ratification vote by PSC members and approval by the CUNY Board of Trustees.

If accepted, the 7-year contract would be retroactive to Oct. 20, 2010 and end Nov. 30, 2017. Besides retroactive pay, PSC members would also receive a signing bonus. In all, the deal covers 25,000 PSC members at CUNY, including full-time and adjunct professors, lecturers, higher education officers, laboratory technicians and other professional staff.

"We were able to negotiate a strong, imaginative contract in a period of enforced austerity for public workers because our members mobilized," PSC President Barbara Bowen said in a statement announcing the tentative agreement. "The fight for our contract was a fight for investment in quality education at CUNY. On behalf of the union bargaining team, I commend our negotiating partners at CUNY and I thank the many lawmakers in Albany and New York City — as well as the students and community groups — who offered essential support."

Bowen said a critical component of the tentative deal is that it would bring "significant" structural changes that will "fortify" working and learning conditions at CUNY by providing faculty more time to work with individual students. The agreement also would establish CUNY's first-ever system of multi-year appointments for adjunct faculty, allowing thousands of instructors who are paid by the course to offer greater academic continuity to their students. CUNY's professional staff, under terms of the new pact, would also be provided opportunities for advances in pay and title.

Emotions at CUNY had been running high for some time, as PSC members worked the last half-dozen years under terms of an expired contract and faculty members watched as their pay fell to well below the level of their higher education counterparts in the New York City area. Meanwhile, in recent years, per-student funding at CUNY was cut, making it difficult for the system to cover operating expenses, exacerbating the labor discord.

Throughout the impasse, PSC members often demonstrated publicly, calling for a fair contract. The situation reached a boiling point in November when hundreds of pro-union supporters took to the New York City streets to demand an end to the impasse, ultimately resulting in the arrests of dozens of protesters — including Bowen and NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer Martin Messner.

"From the very beginning, PSC's fight for a new contract was about respect," said NYSUT President Karen E. Magee. "The faculty and professional staff are the backbone of the CUNY system and, without them, it would be impossible for CUNY to fulfill its mission. They are entitled to fair treatment and they should be recognized for their exceptional work and professionalism."