TALK IS CHEAP: District Council 37, which represents more than 120,000 city employees, including 10,000 non-instructional staff at CUNY, backed the PSC’s push for a contract that included higher-pay for part-time staff. DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido urged Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio to live up to claims of the city’s progressiveness ‘by solving the problem of adjuncts being paid near-poverty wages.’

Some of the city’s most prominent labor leaders came out to support the Professional Staff Congress, which has been pushing for a fair contract that includes funding for adjuncts to earn $7,000 per course, at a City Hall press conference March 14.

PSC’s contract expired in November 2017. As part of its campaign for a new agreement, the union has been fighting for more funding for the beleaguered public university system, in order to make critical repairs at CUNY’s aging campuses and increase adjunct pay.

‘Exploiting Part-Timers’

Adjuncts currently earn about $3,500 per course, and the union has been pushing for that figure to be doubled to $7,000, which was comparable to what adjuncts at other colleges such as Rutgers University made. CUNY adjuncts earned an average salary of about $28,000 a year.

“CUNY now sustains itself by constantly increasing tuition and by exploiting part-time labor,” said PSC President Barbara Bowen. “Instead of having a full complement of full-time faculty, we have 12,000 part-time faculty on short, contingent appointments and they are on a near-poverty wage. That’s a disgrace.”

The coalition also rallied earlier that day outside of Governor Cuomo’s East Side offices. Though CUNY receives aid from the city, the majority of its funding comes from the state, and the Governor appoints 10 of CUNY’s 17 Trustees.

The PSC has aggressively pushed for reform, and held a series of protests including one outside the investment-banking offices of former City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr., the Chair of CUNY’s Board. In December, it blockaded the entrance to Baruch College, resulting in the arrest of 17 members, including Ms. Bowen.

District Council 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido, who represents 10,000 non-instructional staff at CUNY, also spoke to the protesters. His union reached a deal in November that granted 8.24 percent raises over a 52-month period.

Matter of Solidarity

Mr. Garrido, who noted that he graduated from City College, said that it was important for his union to aid the PSC’s fight because the educators supported DC 37’s campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.   

“We talk a good talk about how we’re different, how we’re the progressive city of New York, how all across the country, Teachers are striking in deep-red states to fight for the funding for proper education,” he said. “Right here in New York City, to be true to our creed that we are different, then we should begin to act that way by solving the problem of adjuncts being paid near poverty wages.”  

Vinny Alvarez, President of the AFL-CIO New York City Central Labor Council, and Janella Hinds, vice president for academic high schools at the United Federation of Teachers, also pushed for the Governor and Mayor de Blasio to fund a fair contract. Ms. Hinds pointed out that the majority of CUNY students came from city public schools.

“We want to make sure that those who are engaging with our students have the income they need to take care of their families,” she said.

Calls for ‘Economic Justice’

Ms. Bowen called the union’s fight an “economic and racial justice” issue, because while CUNY serves predominantly low- and middle-income students, a significant number of its faculty have to work multiple jobs.

“That’s not fair, and it’s a sign of contempt for the people we serve and are privileged to educate,” she said.

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