FROM HANDCUFFS TO HANDSHAKES: Last December, 17 members of the Professional Staff Congress, including union president Barbara Bowen, blockaded the entrance to Baruch College and were arrested as part of their fight for a contract that included adjunct pay being doubled to $7,000 per course. The union announced Oct. 23 a tentative pact that comes close to doing just that: if ratified, adjuncts would earn $6,875 for all four-credit courses.

After aggressively campaigning for years for adjunct pay to be doubled, the Professional Staff Congress Oct. 23 announced it came close to the target under a tentative contract agreement that would allow adjuncts teaching four-credit courses to earn $6,875 per class.

More than 12,000 adjuncts, who make up the majority of the teaching staff at the City University of New York, are currently paid as little as $3,222 per course. The average adjunct earned $28,000 a year, and at several Board of Trustees hearings and union rallies, frustrated faculty described juggling multiple jobs to make ends meet. If ratified, the pact would restructure the salary steps for adjuncts.

Significant Jumps

By the end of the contract, Adjunct Lecturers would earn $91.67 per hour, while Adjunct Professors would make $112.50. Pay for three-credit courses would increase to a minimum of $5,500—a 71 percent increase—while adjuncts would earn $6,875 for a four-credit course.

The 63-month pact, which runs from Dec. 1, 2017 to Feb. 28, 2023, provides a 10-percent salary increase for 30,000 employees, including a 2-percent raise retroactive to Oct. 1, 2018, with the final of five 2-percent increases set for Nov. 1, 2022.

PSC President Barbara Bowen called the proposed agreement “a turning point” in the history of CUNY’s treatment of adjuncts. “It is a principled and imaginative contract that constitutes a victory for every member of the union—and for CUNY students,” she said. “The pathbreaking salary increase for CUNY’s 12,000 adjunct faculty will be of national importance in higher education.”

Ms. Bowen told The Chief that the union chose to concentrate on boosting the minimum pay for courses because that’s what the majority of adjuncts—about 70 percent—earned.

“This is a big raise across the board for adjuncts but especially for people at the bottom,” she said.

The union held several rallies and demonstrations to highlight the paltry pay for adjuncts, including one outside the investment-banking offices of William C. Thompson Jr., Chairperson of the CUNY board. Last December, union members blockaded the entrance to Baruch College, resulting in the arrest of 17 members, including Ms. Bowen.

Cuomo ‘Proud’ of Deal

"A fair day's pay for a fair day’s work is the principle that New York was founded upon and I'm proud that this contract for the first time ever has been expanded to cover adjunct professors and full-time faculty alike—all to the ultimate benefit of CUNY's students,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement. Ms. Bowen, who has frequently criticized him on funding issues, said his “active support” made this deal possible.

CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez said that the pact would “further strengthen our ability to compete for top-tier faculty to teach our students.”

“Equally as important, all of our faculty will now devote more time to meeting with and advising students and engaging in professional development. This will be crucial to our efforts to increase graduation rates, enhance learning, and remain a premier university,” he added.

The tentative deal includes an increase in the number of office hours adjuncts will be paid for starting next semester, allowing them more time to help students. Currently, part-time staff teaching more than 6 classroom hours are paid for one office hour per week. The agreement would allow adjuncts teaching between 6 and 9 classroom hours to be paid for 30 office hours per semester, while instructors teaching more than 9 hours would get paid for 45 office hours.

Other Improvements

If an adjunct teaches at two colleges, he or she can be paid for 45 office hours at one college and a maximum of 30 office hours at the second.

The deal also includes equity raises for full-time College Laboratory Technicians, all Lecturers, entry-level Higher Education Officers, and full-time CUNY Start and CUNY Language Immersion Program instructors. It provides research accounts for department chairs, expands access to the state health insurance program for graduate employees, and establishes a committee to implement the state Paid Family Leave benefit for both adjuncts and full-time staff.

The PSC’s delegate assembly must approve the tentative deal, which must then be ratified by the union’s members. The delegates were set to meet Nov. 7.

The union received an outpouring of support for the breakthrough, although some criticized the deal because it did not fully double minimum pay for three-credit courses.

“Even though it doesn’t reach $7,000, it does break the system of poverty pay. I feel strongly that a contract that gets a 71-percent increase in minimum pay is not a contract one should turn down,” Ms. Bowen said.

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