Last week the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), the union which represents CUNY staff, both full-time and part-time, held a meeting to discuss how to increase adjunct pay from the current $3500/course to $7000/course. The Borough of Manhattan Community College chapter issued the following manifesto:
BMCC PSC on WInning 7K:
Whereas the low wage contigent model of employment has become more deeply
entrenched at CUNY in recent years, with nearly twice as many adjunct faculty members
at the university in 2018 as there were in 2000;
Whereas the current pay rates of adjunct faculty members and other contingent university
employees are not sufficient to honor their professional and education achievements, or to
provide income commensurate with the costs of living in the New York Metropolitan area;
Whereas the contingent employment model provides students with too little sustained contact
with instructgors, undermines the faculty role in university governance, threatens academic
freedom, undermines the pay and benefits of full-time CUNY employees, and signals disrespect for
the work of all CUNY faculty members and professional staff;
Whereas a breakthrough on adjunct salaries is necessary to raise the standard of living
of many PSC members, to allow PSC members to serve our students and community with dignity,
and to shift CUNY away from the model of low-wage contingent employment on which it now
Whereas the PSC now seeks a minimum of $7,000 per course for adjunct faculty members ("$7k");
Whereas winning $7k will therefore require a strategic, sustained, multi-faceted campaign,
rather than reliance on any single form of action or pressure;
Whereas the PSC's $7k campaign already incorporates efforts at the bargaining table advocacy with
elected officials and campus-based organizing,
Whereas a strategic campaign for $7k has the potential to unite and galvanize PSC members
across campuses and job titles;
Therefore be it resolved that the attendees at the October 17, 2018 meeting of the BMCC
PSC chapter support the PSC's $7k demand;
That we support a comprehensive strategy to win $7k, moving from internal education
and organizing to community coalition-building, legislative advocacy, and public pressure,
including large-scale collective actions, up to and including some form of job action
or strike if and when such an action would unite PSC members and help the PSC win $7k;
That we encourage PSC members to participate in the full range of $7k campaign
That we pledge our own participation in this crucial campaign.
This is stirring prose, reminiscent of Thomas Jefferson's preamble to the Declaration of Independence: "When in the course of human events....: and proceding to listing the tyrannical acts of King George III, and concluding with a call to war. According to Karren Wilkes, the current president of BMCC, adjuncts constitute over 67% of all teaching staff.
CUNY adjunct wages are out of line with comparable universiies. Fordham adjuncts receive $8,000/course, NYU adjuncts receive $9,000/course. Columbia adjuncts receive $10,000 course. An adjustment at CUNY would make our colleges more competiive to adjuncts. Why would anyone want to teach here, when down the block they could make three times as much.
While the prose is rousing, it is all well to remember that a strike is unlikely. It is all very comfortable to sit in a cozy classroom space, munching on cookies and drinking coffee. Most of us are well acquainted with the reality: Adjuncts are likely to lose their positions if they miss class. Furthermore, a strike only victimizes our students, who have to complete their course work within certain time frames, so they can apply to senior colleges or internships. As poor as the salaries are, CUNY has plenty of graduate students who can be called in as reserves. Lastly, it serves as poor advertising for adjuncts to victimize the vulnerable. How dedicated are they now to furthering undergraduate education? Furthermore, it will do nothing to attract the attention of the CUNY Board Members, who do not serve on-campus.
What we must do is make ourselves salient to Board Members--not only protesting outside their places of business, but consider occupying their offices. They cannot ignore us then. Post continuously on social media. Try to get mainstream coverage.
Furthermore, look at the wage structure of CUNY. Like all other business, there is a massive disjunct between labor and management salaries. Management gets a parsonage allowance and chauffeurs. Last year, the president of CUNY appropriated grants to feather her own nest. Corruption and fringe benefits of management causes the cannibalization of CUNY resources. Labs and adjuncts starve while management eats the cake and flaunts it as well. Management has offices outside of CUNY campuses and classrooms. We need to remind them of our salience by making our presence known. Occupy CUNY HQ and stay until $7K is a reality.