Members of the City University of New York’s faculty and staff had hoped that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo would restore their funding to pre-2008 levels and provide a raise in the minimum wage. It looks like they’ll be funded, but as of press time, they weren’t sure for what.
During his State of the State address, Cuomo proposed a $6.8 billion state investment in CUNY and State University of New York schools and extending tuition assistance for students. According to the state budget briefing book, Cuomo wants to “rationalize funding for CUNY senior colleges by having the city of New York pay a share of financial support that aligns with the city’s participation in the governance of CUNY.”
But there wasn’t any mention of a minimum wage raise for CUNY workers.
Earlier this month, Cuomo announced that he would raise the minimum wage for State University employees to $15 an hour and announced a push for New York to become the first state to make the minimum wage $15 for all workers.
Before Cuomo had unveiled his plans during the State of the State, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC-CUNY)—the union representing CUNY’s faculty and staff—remained hopeful and pushed for Cuomo to provide their workers with a living wage similar to SUNY employees and to restore funding.
“We call on Governor Cuomo to provide funds in his executive budget to ensure that CUNY students continue to have access to the top-quality faculty and staff they deserve,” said PSC Barbara Bowen in a statement two days before the State of the State. “CUNY should be at the center of any plan for a progressive future for New York, but Governor Cuomo has missed the opportunity to allow CUNY to rebound; per-student funding for the four-year colleges remains very close to recession levels.
“A movement to rebuild CUNY is arising out of New York’s most spirited groups because CUNY represents many New Yorkers’ best chance to overcome the deep, racialized gaps in opportunity and income that divide our city,” Bowen concluded.
This past Monday, PSC-CUNY also held a rally outside of Cuomo’s Manhattan office that featured speeches from New York Communities for Change Director Jonathan Westin, Alliance for Quality Education Advocacy Director Zakiyah Ansari and New York Working Families Party State Director Bill Lipton.
“Governor Cuomo can put [as many] soundbites as he wants to about how important education and community is and the working people and poor people are,” said Ansari at the rally. “He can call it a ‘Highway to Hope’ all he wants, but if he’s not putting his money where his mouth is, then it is all talk.”
According to the PSC-CUNY, under Cuomo, CUNY’s per-student funding has been relatively flat amid tuition hikes that threaten mostly low-income students. The union (25,000 members) have worked without a new contract for the past five years, and CUNY has cut courses in order to save money while academic departments struggle to retain the best and brightest.
Last December, the AmNews reported on U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders writing an open letter to Cuomo stating his belief that CUNY’s faculty and staff deserved a raise. Bowen had remained hopeful that the governor would heed the candidate’s words.
“That move needs to be extended to CUNY,” said Bowen at Monday’s rally. “I haven’t heard anything yet, but we are hopeful that it will be part of a move to make decent funding at CUNY.”
PSC-CUNY reps were asked to comment after the State of the State speech and were still working on a statement as of press time.