An example of the happy endings that sometimes develop after acrimonious beginnings was produced by the Professional Staff Congress’s new contract for faculty at the City University of New York.
Ten months earlier, a union rally to pressure the CUNY board and Governor Cuomo to address pay for adjunct instructors—who make up a majority of the PSC membership—resulted in the arrest of 17 members and officials including President Barbara Bowen. It wasn’t clear then that taking activism to that level would bear fruit, given previous contracts that chipped at the edges of the problem without breaking through.
But this contract went a long way toward meeting the union’s goals. In addition to a 10-percent raise over the 63 months of the tentative deal, if ratified it would raise the pay for teaching four-credit courses from roughly $3,500 to $6,875, and for three-credit courses from $3,222 to $5,500. Those increases would take effect in the semester that begins early next year.
Ms. Bowen told this newspaper’s Crystal Lewis the deal marked “a turning point” in the treatment of adjuncts, even while she noted complaints that the union hadn’t actually doubled the pay rates, as promised.
But the give-and-take that is an inherent part of collective bargaining virtually guarantees that neither side is going to get everything it sought. The strides made on fair compensation justified Ms. Bowen’s declaration that the deal looms as “of national importance in higher education.”
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