PSC-CUNY calls out chancellor for backing out of deal

Stephon Johnson | 2/18/2021, midnight

The union representing City University of New York workers wants college officials to pay what they owe.

More than 150 Professional Staff Congress members took to CUNY’s Central offices at 205 East 42nd St. According to union officials, CUNY’s Chancellor Félix Matos-Rodriguez went back on a Dec. 16 promise to raise wages. Then management allegedly told the union late last Wednesday that the chancellor decided in early January to delay contract raises indefinitely.

The union negotiated the raises explicitly to narrow salary gaps and address inequities of race and gender.

Another 1,295 CUNY lecturers learned that their promised equity increases, starting in April, wouldn’t be paid on time.

The unpaid equity raises were negotiated in addition to the across-the-board 2% raise due last November. That raise is also being withheld from CUNY workers; raises for state employees have been frozen by New York State Gov. Cuomo since April.

PSC-CUNY President Barbara Bowen said that her constituents felt like they were stabbed in the back.

“CUNY’s decision to withhold the raises is a betrayal of the 1,295 assistants to HEO, the 1,262 lecturers, and every member of the PSC,” stated Bowen. “It is also a blatant breach of our contract. Every member of the PSC is betrayed when management believes they can disregard the most basic part of our contract: our pay.”

Two weeks ago, Matos-Rodriguez extolled the virtues of CUNY in an op-ed for amNewYork writing about “tolerance” and “respect.”

“The City University of New York, the most racially and ethnically diverse University in the country and arguably the world, has long been a home to such helpful dialogue and a beacon to the honest exchange of ideas, a place where students, faculty and staff are encouraged to work together, find common ground and forge a more civil and symbiotic community,” wrote Matos-Rodriguez.

Last year’s budget gave Cuomo unilateral authority to cut the state budget due to COVID-related losses in revenue. Cuomo had proposed cuts as high as $95 million. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s budget proposed a $31.6 million cut.

This year, Matos-Rodriguez testified at a budget hearing on higher education for the 2021-’22 school year. The chancellor reminded Albany that the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act helped CUNY with emergency funds and grants, but more needed to be done.

“This was a very, very difficult fiscal year and this was a year also in which we’re dealing with a lot of unprecedented changes coming our way. So, we had to make a number of decisions to protect the overall university…” Matos-Rodriguez said.

Bowen wasn’t hearing any of it. In her message to her constituents, Bowen said that the union will not tolerate CUNY backing out of the deal.

“There is no excuse under any circumstances for withholding a contractual raise, but with CUNY still holding tens of millions of CARES Act money, it is totally outrageous. Enough is enough!” wrote Bowen.