Even while striving to cope
with the implications of
COVID–19, the Professional
Staff Congress at CUNY has been
pressing to identify health and safety
problems needing remediation or
buildings needing to come off line.
The PSC has trained more than
200 union health and safety watchdogs
to participate in walkthroughs
of campus worksites and identify
threats to health and safety.
“Health and safety has been our
primary fight” over the university’s 20
campuses, said new PSC President
James Davis. Many of the buildings
have suffered from years of deferred
maintenance, he reported to the
NYSUT Higher Education Policy
“There’s a ton of federal funding,”
Davis said, but “we’ve not seen
enough of [it] being invested in the
The pandemic has had its effect,
as well. PSC lost 2,000 contingent
faculty and also many professional
staff since the COVID-19 shutdown
began, he said.
On SUNY four-year campuses,
United University Professions ran an
aggressive vaccination campaign,
said UUP President Fred Kowal. The
Department of Health requires vaccinations
for all health care employees
at SUNY hospitals.
The union did workshops and outreach
to members, and many people
got their shots as a result. Very few
have not been vaccinated.
“We got the message across:
Vaccinations should be mandated
and through our work on our campuses,
the impact was lower than we
thought it would be,” he said.
Kowal also said the union is close
to securing retroactive overtime pay
for health care professional members
who have been so overburdened by
the massive pandemic response.
At the beginning of the shutdown,
members of the Union of Clerical,
Administrative and Technical Staff at
NYU were part of a hiring freeze and
the local lost 125 members, reported
UCATS President Stephen Rechner.
Almost everyone remaining was
ordered to work from home.
But 10 percent of members were
required to work on campus fulltime
as essential workers during the
height of the shutdown.
Interestingly, 10 years ago, the
union had negotiated contract
language that said, in a shutdown,
“essentials” would be paid time and
a half for the first three days. Well, the
administration failed to honor that
agreement. The union had to fight
“And, we won!” Rechner said. The
UCATS members who had to risk
working on campus while everyone
else was home
are getting their
time and a half.
NYU had originally
for all by this
but the union
in remote work
it was effective.
Most of the 125
positions lost are expected to be filled
soon, he said.
Community colleges report reduced
enrollment this fall in the range
of 10 to 15 percent. The four-year
schools have seen a slightly lower
A big factor in enrollment might be
the pending federal aid package that
could include two years of free tuition
at colleges that primarily offer associate’s
NYSUT Higher Ed Policy Council
Chair Roberta Elins, president of the
United College Employees at FIT, likened
it to “reverse Excelsior,” which
is the state’s “last-dollar” scholarship
that pays for public higher education
at four-year schools, under rather
On a positive note, Elins added
that the annual NYSUT Community
College Leadership Conference
will return to an in-person format
in November after a COVID-related
break in 2020.