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CUNY GRAD CENTER TAKES STEP TOWARDS STRIKE

Graduate Center Professors overwhelmingly vote to begin a Strike Authorization Campaign.
Photo by Henry Fernberger

The CUNY Graduate Center chapter of the Professional Staff Congress (GC-PSC) approved a resolution that gets them closer to striking for better wages.

“This resolution is an attempt to take steps to put resources into organizing a strike,” said Jane Guskin, co-author of the resolution and Queens College adjunct professor. 

The resolution outlines steps to prepare the union members to vote on a strike authorization if the PSC contract agreement doesn’t meet their demands. The steps include forming a strike committee and hiring more organizers to collect pledge cards or “red cards” among many other line items outlined in the resolution. Duskin said this isn’t a resolution of ideals this is an “action resolution.”

This resolution gained traction among adjuncts who identify with the $7k or Strike movement that has been organizing for adjuncts to get better wages. Many adjuncts struggle to manage the workload of expanding class sizes and keep up with the cost of living in New York City. Proponents of the movement want to receive $7,000 per course in the next contract, nearly double what the average adjunct is paid, or they will strike. 

The most recent CUNY contract expired back in 2017 and union members have been waiting to see what agreement the PSC bargaining committee has come to with the CUNY Board of Trustees behind closed doors. The union has been working without a new contract for the past three years.

Some professors feel this resolution is unstrategic because union members would be acting before they even know what’s in the new contract. 

“Do we have the support [for a strike]? I want 7k. I’m an adjunct, but the [union] leadership is the best chance to reach our demands,” said Claudia Shacter de Charbart, GC adjunct at the School of Labor and Urban Studies. 

Some adjuncts have faith that PSC leadership can negotiate a contract that will meet the demands but many are skeptical. “A lot of the rank-and-file membership feel like they need to take it upon themselves to organize because the leadership has not done so,” said Hilary Wilson, adjunct and Ph.D student in urban studies. 

The last contract saw a marginal pay increase for adjunct professors that barely kept up with the rate of inflation. 

“We’re starting what we should have done [three] years ago by using the only power we have which is to withhold our labor,” said Travis Sweatte, CUNY adjunct and Delegate of Graduate Center PSC, referring to a strike authorization that passed by 92% in May 2016 during that round of contract negotiations. This vote was never acted upon by the PSC leadership because because the PSC bargaining team and CUNY finally came out with a contract for the membership to vote on. 

Even though the union managed to approve a strike authorization three years ago, some adjuncts feel the union should get more support for a strike before they roll out this resolution at the GC. “Some people say we’re not ready,” said Duskin. “This [resolution] is us getting ready.” 

Because the resolution passed at the GC, the Delegacy from GC-PSC Chapter will bring the resolution to the PSC Delegate Assembly on Sept. 19, to be voted upon. There the PSC Executive Board will vote to adopt the resolution to build support and prepare union members for a strike authorization vote. At press time, the PSC Executive Committee wasn’t ready to release a statement. 

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