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Imagine living in New York and taking MTA transportation (fare: $2.75) from home to work and back three to five days a week. Imagine pulling in long hours in between lecturing up to three classes and grading all those exams and papers. Now imagine that you have been working like this for five years with an expired contract. That’s right. Five years. Pissed yet? Well, you should be, because that’s what the faculty in the CUNY system has been dealing with.

The Professional Staff Congress, or PSC, is a union that represents well over 25,000 faculty and staff within the City University of New York. The PSC been organizing campaigns to bring attention to the demands and concerns of CUNY faculty and staff. Between the months of October and November, PSC members will execute a series of events that will work in increasing the pressure on the CUNY Board to renew their contracts and increase their salary wages. The pressure has been put on Chancellor James Milliken in particular.

On October 1st, PSC members and supporters greeted Chancellor Milliken with a “wake up call” outside of his Manhattan apartment. It was no coincidence that October 1st was also the same day as the first CUNY Board meeting of the year. It was also symbolic for PSC to begin their course of action at Chancellor Milliken’s apartment, considering it costs $19,500 a month and CUNY pays his rent. You read that correctly. CUNY pays the Chancellor’s rent. However, he brings home $670,000 a year, so I don’t think that’s necessary.

In an email to PSC members from August 27th, PSC president Barbara Bowen stated that from October 19th to the 30th, their campaign would be taken to the classrooms, where the students would be made aware of how the status of their contracts affect the overall quality of their education at CUNY. They planned to have a disruptive mass action on November 4th if the contracts had not been renewed by the 1st. Recently, it was decided that PSC will hold a strike authorization vote. This is not a vote to strike, but it gives authorization to call for a strike by the Executive Council if need be.

Reaching an agreement on a new contract requires the participation of PSC, CUNY, New York State — which funds a greater part of the budget for CUNY — and the city. Getting all four components to come together is proving to be a difficult task, even though it doesn’t have to be. Between Governor Cuomo claiming that “it’s up to CUNY to pay the salaries from their budget” and Mayor De Blasio’s interesting optimism that “both sides will come to an agreement,” you can see where the frustration lies. President Bowen has stated that the end goal is not to strike but to achieve a contract that is supportive of the students’ education and worthy of the work they put in.

Brooklyn College, my alma mater, has played a major role in my life. Besides the diverse background of the student population, the passion and the drive of the professors was another quality that drew me to the school. In a city like New York where the cost of living and travel go up faster than your blood pressure, it’s great to know that you can get quality education at CUNY without breaking the bank at “big name” colleges like NYU or Columbia. Brooklyn college even has the nickname of “the poor man’s Harvard.” However, once again, the importance of education is caught in a tug of war between the city, the state, and everyday people.

To find out more information and support this cause, visit PSC’s website.


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