Dear Commons Community,
Below is a letter from Professional Staff Congress President Barbara Bowen urging members to take action to avert pending budget cuts that will affect faculty and staff positions.
Please read and take action!
Dear PSC Members,
I hope you and your loved ones are well. And I know that you join me in extending solidarity to CUNY students, many of whom have confided in faculty and staff members this semester about the terrible toll the epidemic has taken on their families and their lives.
Friday, May 29, is the contractual deadline for notifying adjunct faculty, adjunct college laboratory technicians and non-teaching adjuncts about whether their appointments will be renewed next fall. Several colleges have announced plans to lay off hundreds of adjuncts and reduce course offerings by as much as 35 percent. The PSC is waging an all-out campaign to protect course offerings and prevent layoffs and loss of health insurance-a potentially catastrophic loss during a pandemic.
The letter I sent to the chancellor and the chairperson of the board of trustees last week demands that they pursue other sources of revenue, including more than $100 million in federal stimulus money allocated to CUNY colleges, and states the union’s position:
The PSC calls on the Board of Trustees and the Office of the Chancellor to reject any budget strategy that includes layoffs and hurts students as well as faculty and staff; to rescind budgetary non-reappointments made since March; to embrace the principle of sustaining the workforce and the University during a pandemic; and to press for a fully funded CUNY to meet the challenges ahead.
Thousands of PSC members-adjuncts and other hourly workers-are at risk of losing their jobs, their income and their health insurance. Some have already been notified that their appointments will end. A crisis for any CUNY workers is a crisis for all CUNY workers. How powerfully the union resists this first attempt at layoffs will send a message about how powerfully we will resist later attempts if they come.
I am writing to update you on the fast-developing union actions this week. I also want to clarify that the PSC opposes any call for faculty to submit their spring semester grades after the deadlines set by the colleges. Any request you may receive to submit grades after they are due has not been authorized by the union. The PSC recommends that all part-time and full-time faculty submit their grades by the established date, as you normally would.
The current moment demands action that has power as well as urgency. To start this critical week, I challenge PSC members to generate, within the next 24 hours, 2,000 pledges to participate in an online protest action later this week and 4,000 urgent messages demanding that the chancellor and the chairperson of the board of trustees stop the cuts and layoffs. Watch for messages with details about the virtual protest; it may involve simultaneous online messages or other forms of sharp, targeted protest focused on CUNY’s actions or cuts that may be announced in Albany.
The PSC has been active on every front:
- collective actions by members, including a vigorous protest caravan;
- resistance on the campuses where layoffs have been announced;
- a public statement of opposition to the cuts signed by a majority of CUNY department chairs;
- a TV ad that demands an end to cuts and layoffs and will air 466 times this week in New York City;
- an online town hall today for the three Bronx campuses;
- a press conference last Friday that featured searing statements by CUNY adjuncts and public support by Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and leaders from New York’s legislature;
- coverage in the local and national press about the damage that cuts and layoffs would cause;
- support for our members as they have produced an extraordinary outpouring of opinion pieces about the crisis at CUNY, including one published today.
The PSC is also pursuing every possible legal and grievance action to avert the cuts and layoffs. I expect to send an update on these actions later this week.
In addition, our union has helped to build a multi-union coalition pressing for fair taxation of the super-rich, and a bill has already been introduced into the State Legislature to dedicate new revenue explicitly to CUNY. The PSC has demanded to bargain with management over issues such as safety protections when work resumes on campus. And I have had the opportunity to work directly with members of Congress, national union leaders and others to ensure that the millions of dollars in federal stimulus money allocated directly to CUNY colleges be used to avert layoffs and loss of health insurance.
Thank you, PSC members, for your tremendous support for these actions, even as you have coped with trauma, loss and reorganizing your work lives and personal lives this spring. Now we must prepare to become even more active. Last week the union’s Executive Council voted to build on the existing budget campaign by expanding our capacity for mass action throughout the summer and exploring the possibility of disruptive job actions later this year. You will soon see plans for our summer campaign. When the PSC has prepared for disruptive action in the past, we have done so in a way that unites the faculty and staff, is honest about potential risks and benefits, and builds power by winning the support of the students and community.
The COVID-19 emergency has exposed anew the injustices of the contingent labor system in higher education, just as it has exposed other lethal inequalities in the U.S. economic system. CUNY has survived decades of underfunding in large part because adjuncts have continued to serve our students even when their pay and working conditions have been inadequate. CUNY management is now exploiting the shameful contingent labor system by jettisoning essential faculty and staff who, in any just system, would be in full-time positions.
We in the PSC are fortunate to be one union, faculty and professional staff together, part-time and full-time together, and we must use our whole power in this crisis. We need to be able to count on each other this year. Take one action today and be ready for more to come: send your letter and sign the pledge to join a virtual emergency protest. Thank you.