Close to 30,000 faculty and staff at the City University of New York (CUNY) have been working with an expired union contract for almost two years, but that is about to change. The Professional Staff Congress (PSC), my union, and CUNY management have struck a deal that now must be approved by union delegates and ratified by members. As chair of the PSC chapter at the College of Staten Island (CSI), I’m voting “yes” because it’s good for my coworkers.
More than 21,000 degree-seeking CUNY students live in the borough. Thousands more working Staten Islanders take CUNY classes to get a certification or advance their careers. And more than 1200 faculty and staff live on the island.
All CUNY faculty and staff will receive raises of over 10 percent, if the contract is ratified. Adjuncts, part-time instructors hired mostly on a course-by-course basis, who teach the majority of CUNY courses, will get a big boost to their current near-poverty pay. The adjuncts, who CSI students depend on for instruction and guidance, will receive raises, plus a weekly paid office hour for each course that they teach. For the lowest-paid adjuncts, the raise in per-class pay with an office hour will be 39 percent starting in spring 2020 growing to 71 percent by fall 2022; it will rise from $3222 to $5,500. Bigger increases will go to the lowest-paid adjuncts, but all will receive a substantial raise and the extra paid hours.
This contract will have a big impact on our college. Two-thirds of the undergraduate classes at CSI are taught by adjuncts. More of the time that adjuncts devote to students will be paid. This is particularly important for students because the writing-intensive and introductory courses that can make-or-break a student’s first year are often taught by adjuncts.
The proposed deal provides an extra salary lift for many of the other lower-paid full-time faculty and staff, too, but it’s not perfect. Full- and part-time faculty and staff need more competitive salaries, and adjuncts that support themselves and their families exclusively by teaching will still struggle to afford to live in this expensive city. We need full equity pay for adjuncts level with the per-course pay of full-timers.
And yet, this MOA with all its gains, paves an important road towards the next contract once this one is ratified. As this is a contract I support, I also know full well, our union, with the support of all Staten Islanders, will need to continue to mobilize to achieve the overdue and necessary equity all the titles of the PSC covers, for each and every member.
If ratified, the PSC-CUNY contract will result in new state and city investment in CUNY. But more is needed. CSI lost out on $5.5 million last year because the state doesn’t fully fund our students’ financial aid. The city’s small investment in CSI and other four-year CUNY colleges hasn’t grown in decades. The college needs more public funding, for wage justice, but also for counselors and advisors and more full-time faculty, for repairs and updated facilities.
If you’re reading this, you likely know someone who has a better life because of CUNY. The new PSC-CUNY contract brings us one step closer to the university that New Yorkers deserve. The faculty and staff of CUNY will continue the fight to make that better university possible, for our students, for Staten Island, for all of New York.
George Emilio Sanchez is a professor with the Performing & Creative Arts department and PSC College Chapter Chair at CSI. George has been with the CUNY system for 18 years and lives in Brooklyn.
A different view:
Opinion: Be Wary of the Deal Between Cuomo and CUNY’s Union/a>