Dear Commons Community,
Close to fifty professors from the City University of New York were arrested today while demanding a contract that will help CUNY retain excellent professors, ensuring a quality education for the 500,000 CUNY students across the city. They blocked the doors to the midtown office building housing CUNY’s central administration and refused to move until the university management made a fair offer to resolve their long-expired union contract. CUNY negotiators, responding to the union’s increasing pressure, made an economic offer at a bargaining session earlier in the day. The union’s initial response was that the proposal is completely inadequate and will further endanger academic quality at CUNY.
Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress, the union of CUNY faculty and staff, joined the blockade with her colleagues. Before the action, she addressed the protesters and a legal rally of 800 other union members.
“Working people, people of color, the poor of New York City—these are our students,” she said. “Professors and academic staff are essential for a first-rate education, and CUNY needs to offer a contract that allows the University to retain outstanding faculty and staff. CUNY’s offer fails the half-million low- and middle-income New Yorkers who rely on CUNY for a college education. The offer fails to keep up with inflation or to make other improvements CUNY students urgently need. Without real progress toward competitive salaries, CUNY will be unable to attract and keep the faculty and staff our students deserve. We took a stand today for educational justice for the working people of New York.”
Five years have passed since the PSC-CUNY contract expired, and salary rates at CUNY haven’t increased in six years. Over that time, CUNY’s pay has become uncompetitive with comparable colleges and universities in the region. CUNY academic departments are reporting problems attracting and keeping faculty; and professors and advisors are less able to give students the attention they need.
The union, fed up with CUNY management’s stalling and the lack of State support for the contract, has announced plans for a strike authorization vote and intensified its campaign with actions like a recent rally outside the CUNY chancellor’s home and today’s civil disobedience.
“The future of our students’ education is at stake in this contract. Our action today is part of a long struggle for racial and educational justice. We will not move without an offer that will sustain quality at CUNY and pay us fairly for the important work we do,” said Bowen.