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CUNY faculty, staff plan strike authorization vote

Stephon Johnson | 10/22/2015, 12:30 p.m.
The Professional Staff Congress will vote on whether they should go on strike after working without a contract or new ...
Borough of Manhattan Community College Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

The Professional Staff Congress will vote on whether they should go on strike after working without a contract or new raises.

PSC-CUNY, which represents the City University of New York’s faculty and staff, announced that they planned a strike authorization vote after a meeting last week of delegates who represent the union’s 25,000 academic workers.

PSC President Barbara Bowen said that the union is at its wit’s end when it comes to getting a contract and wage increase.

“The PSC has used every legal means at its disposal to achieve a fair contract, and we will do everything we can to reach a contract settlement without the need to strike,” said Bowen in a statement after the meeting. “But six years without a raise, six years of erosion of competitiveness and conditions at CUNY, is intolerable—especially in one of the richest cities in the world. Given CUNY management’s continued failure to secure state funding and put an economic offer on the table, we cannot rule out being prepared for a strike.”

Bowen said a strike authorization vote isn’t necessarily a vote to strike but a vote to authorize the union’s executive council to call a strike.

“But it is a significant escalation of our campaign,” said Bowen. “A positive result will give the union the power to use labor’s strongest weapon if we cannot achieve a fair solution any other way.”

Earlier this month, the AmNews reported on PSC-CUNY members protesting outside of CUNY Chancellor James B, Milliken’s home on the East Side of Manhattan. Workers protested outside of his home early in the morning because, according to the union, Milliken hasn’t “woken up” to the crisis involving academic quality at CUNY schools.

New York law imposes financial and legal penalties on public sector unions and employees who engage in strikes or other job actions of that manner, but voting to strike itself is within state law. The union will discuss strike authorization plans Nov. 19 after participating in a series of disruptive actions on CUNY campuses over the course of the month.

Bowen and the union know that they are taking a significant step here, and they hope that the people are listening—particularly the people at CUNY.

“The PSC’s goal is to achieve a contract worthy of our work and supportive of our students’ education,” said Bowen. “There is too much at stake to allow another academic year to go by without a fair contract and another generation of CUNY students to be shortchanged by underinvestment in their faculty and staff. Failure to invest in our contract represents a political decision not to invest in the people we teach—as well as not to invest in us.

“If CUNY Chancellor J.B. Milliken will not defend CUNY, we will.”