Medgar Evers College (38923)

If last week taught the City University of New York anything, it’s that their faculty and staff are willing to be handcuffed for a new contract.

Close to 50 CUNY professors were arrested after blocking the doors to the office building where CUNY’s central administration is located. Police moved in after demonstrators said they wouldn’t move until university management made a “fair offer” on a new contract. Members of the Professional Staff Congress, the union that represents CUNY’s faculty and staff, have worked without a new contract for the past five years.

Barbara Bowen, president of PSC-CUNY, was among those arrested. During her address to protestors before the arrests, she reminded her fellow union members of who also benefits from a new contract.

“Working people, people of color, the poor of New York City—these are our students,” Bowen told the 350 protesters. “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. Chancellor [James] Milliken’s inadequate offer will sabotage the quality of a CUNY education.”

Late last month, members of the PSC-CUNY protested outside of Milliken’s home early one morning on Manhattan’s East Side. Workers chose to protest there because they felt Milliken hadn’t “woken up” to the academic quality crisis at CUNY schools.

Nov. 19 the union will discuss authorizing a strike. While New York law imposes legal and financial penalties on public sector unions and employees who engage in active work stoppages, voting to strike is within state law.

“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.

For their part, CUNY released details of a new six-year contract presented to PSC-CUNY members that covers their period from Oct. 20, 2010, to Oct. 19, 2016. The contract includes a wage increase of 6 percent (1 percent on Apr. 20, 2014, 1 percent on Apr. 20, 2015, 3 percent on Apr. 20, 2016, and 1 percent on Oct. 19, 2016).

According to CUNY’s release, the offer “effects CUNY’s current fiscal condition and its ability to fund a new contract for its faculty and staff.” PSC-CUNY called the offer “inadequate” and said it would further endanger the academic quality of the institution.