PSC Rallies to Demand Contract Offer, Better Working Conditions

Protesters hope bargaining will end swiftly after the one-year anniversary of no contract./Giovanni Ravalli

By Luis Angel Perez Martinez, Kate Dempsey, Paulina Gajewski

Reporting Assistance by Giovanni Ravalli

 

   The sound of drums reverberated throughout campus on Feb. 29 as protesters circled and picketed to the percussive beat. Chants of “One struggle, one fight, students, faculty, staff unite!” and “Hey hey, ho ho, adjunct poverty has got to go!” provided a vocal accompaniment. The protest, organized by the CUNY Professional Staff Congress (PSC), saw over 100 in attendance to demand better working conditions and pay for Brooklyn College faculty.

   The PSC is a labor union that represents 30,000 faculty and staff at CUNY and is dedicated to advocating for the rights and interests of its members as well as promoting better quality education for students, according to its mission statement. Since Feb. 28, 2023, CUNY has not made any offers towards PSC, according to its members. To highlight the year of stagnation, they organized to advocate for both the full-time and adjunct professors to receive an increase in pay and better working conditions. 

   “We’re out of contract for a year which means that basically all of our pay is frozen at what it is,” Charles Karr, a College Laboratory Technician (CLT) at BC, told The Vanguard. “No matter what kind of inflation hits the rest of the country, and because our [university] has granted us these pay scales but they don’t update them in time for anything, we end up being underpaid, overworked, understaffed, and that’s why I’m here.”

     The PSC outlined specific conditions regarding the treatment of CUNY staff, such as the absence of retroactive pay, no counter-proposals to PSC demands, denial of promotion due to “budget considerations,” and the exclusion of department chairs from the union, among other points. Protesters demanded higher job security and better wages that combat inflation. Adjuncts expressed the difficulties in maintaining their job and livelihoods with less relative pay. 

   “It’s been really hard to live in New York City teaching as an adjunct. Most people who are adjuncts can’t afford to do it for more than a few years,” Adam Bangser, an adjunct professor in the English Department at BC, said. “It’s been tough […] no one can just be an adjunct as a full-time job and if they were, they would require teaching three, four, or sometimes five a semester.”

      Adjuncts in particular protested for the continuation of the CUNY Pilot Program for adjunct professors. This program states that when an adjunct teaches for a couple of years, they will be eligible to be offered a three-year contract. 

      “The CUNY administration wants to end that pilot program, the union is fighting to extend it and make it permanent. That’s the kind of shift that would make a real difference for adjuncts. That would increase job security, and increase wages,” Joseph Entin, a professor of English Literature at BC, said.

   Among concerns from professors is the BC administration not doing enough to support faculty in their advocacy for a contract, which they say will only impact the quality of education that students are receiving.

   “This is affecting directly to the interests of the students […] the crisis has to do with the way, of CUNY in general, but this particular administration in Brooklyn College has handled the crisis and the postcoming situation. But we are in a moment right now where everything is injury here,” Alex Alonzo, a professor in the Modern Languages and Literatures Department, told The Vanguard. “We don’t envision in the future for this if we don’t make a movement right now, nobody is making a move in this institution.”

   BC administration released a statement to The Vanguard in regards to the protest, stating that  “Although the Brooklyn College administration has nothing to do with contractual negotiations between CUNY Central and the PSC union, it does hope for a fair and swift resolution of those negotiations. The administration is working hard to generate funds to hire additional faculty and enhance student support with mentoring programs, completion grants, internship stipends, and facilities improvements,” according to Ludovic Leroy, Interim AVP for Marketing and Communications.

   As the one-year anniversary passes, PSC members hope that their bargaining with CUNY will resolve swiftly so that they can get back to doing what they love most: supporting their students in their educational goals.

   “PSC members’ working conditions are also students’ learning conditions,” Carolina Bank Muñoz, BC Chapter Chair of PSC, told The Vanguard. “We unite in our fight against austerity, for free tuition, and for decent wages and working conditions for faculty and staff across CUNY. We will continue to escalate pressure to force management to bargain in good faith and settle a great contract.”

 

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