Today at 11:14 a.m., a member of the CUNY union’s executive council, Andrea A. Vazquez, responded to the 77 of us (and counting–read and sign the letter here!) calling for the union to represent adjuncts and graduate student workers. She sent her response to two listservs: one for the Graduate Center General Assembly, the other for NYC-wide student activists.
My response to Andrea, on behalf of the 77 of us, follows her statement.
It’s day three since we sent the letter to the union president, Barbara Bowen, and she still hasn’t responded.
I write as long time Graduate Center HEO and a PSC activist for six years. While I am most involved in the HEO chapter, I am also a member of the PSC executive council and on the current contract bargaining team. I say this because, despite of our chapter membership, for the past few years my colleague Bob Nelson (HEO delegate) and I have attended many GC student events, actions, and meetings. Many of these efforts have been exciting, important and have received the support of full time faculty, staff, other students, and the PSC. I am glad to have been supportive of many of those activities and glad, too, that at those events I witnessed a very different spirit of collaborative struggle for a better CUNY than you express in your message. As you point out, you are fairly new in your position and you express “great dismay” at President Bowen’s statement. Unfortunately, you are failing to see the larger picture and are ignoring the history and the facts as they relate to adjuncts and the union. The letter seems to presume that if you declare it, that makes it true. This is an especially unfortunate occurrence in a University. This is the case throughout your letter but perhaps the most glaring example of such oversight is the absence of any interrogation of contracts negotiated over the past fourteen years and your simultaneous willingness to declare that adjuncts have not been a priority of this leadership. For example, in the past two contracts, adjunct faculty have received at the top step greater wage increases, paid office hours, professional development funds, and more. Much remains to be done, including securing higher salaries, stabilization of health benefits, longer appointments, and job security, but it is also in the interest of CUNY, its undergraduate students and adjuncts that we fight for a significant increase in the number of full time CUNY faculty hired across the system. We still suffer from the drastic cuts imposed on CUNY in the 1970s and when we increase the number of full-time faculty that also increases job opportunities for adjunct faculty and for new CUNY PhDs. (Every issue of Clarion is available online and the work of adjunct activists, PSC adjunct leaders, organizers, and liaisons receives a full and accurate reporting there.)
It is unfortunate that you did not attend last week’s meeting of Graduate Center PSCers. Over 100 attended, including full-time faculty, adjunct faculty, graduate teaching fellows, HEOs, CLTs, and Research Foundation employees from all Graduate Center locations and offices. President Bowen and PSC Treasurer Michael Fabricant spent nearly two hours speaking and responding to all questions posed by members in an open, honest, informed, and respectful manner, including those from your fellow adjuncts and graduate teaching fellows about the union’s adjunct contract demands, demands that were in fact developed when our contract expired in October 2010. PSCers from every unit responded with renewed enthusiasm and support for the contract fight that is heating up.
On President Bowen’s statement that you criticized, I’d emphasize that highlighting the need for “full time hires and student support staff” in no way precludes the other urgent contract demands we put forth. While the PSC continues to prioritize adjunct issues, I’d also point out that there are many other PSC constituencies that require and receive the attention of the contract negotiation team. Another contract priority, for example, relates to the HEO non-promotional series. Many in the Assistant to HEO line, for example, are stuck at the top of their pay scale with no structure in place for advancement, save “reclassification,” which is a difficult process. Workload issues for full time faculty, especially at the community colleges, are also a top priority.
As we discussed at last week’s GC meeting, in order to be strong and successful, we must devote sufficient time to understanding the myriad issues that face our diverse membership and then organize and stand united. Of course, it’s not simple but without that plan and shared vision we stand little chance of succeeding. In lieu of claiming poor representation (adjunct faculty are well represented on the PSC Executive Council and on the contract negotiations team), and planning to confront and force the leadership and the union’s elected delegate assembly representatives to do as you wish, I’d ask you to adopt a more comradely and respectful tone in your communication and participation with the union. You not only do a disservice to the PSC leadership by your accusations, you also divide the union membership at a moment in our contract negotiations when solidarity is essential.
Andrea A. Vasquez
Thank you for your response, Andrea, but our letter, with 70+ signatories and counting, is to Barbara as president of the union.
There are three issues we asked her to redress, and a fourth: the gratis attendance of 30 adjuncts and graduate student workers at this summer’s COCAL at John Jay College being organized by the PSC.
Today is day three since the letter was sent to Barbara and she still has not responded.
You speak to none of the four issues in the letter here.
It’s the union’s job to represent us. It’s not the other way around.
We are holding the union accountable. We want real, rank-and-file democracy.
To read and sign the letter, please click here.