Author: Sean Kennedy (Page 1 of 3)

First-year student in the PhD program in English.

Toward a Just Contract—The Zine!


Last fall, the Adjunct Project launched its “Toward a Just Contract” campaign, orienting our events and programming around the question of contract justice taken as broadly as possible. As a final project for the semester, we put together a zine that includes, among other things, the results of the adjunct and grad student worker survey that over 200 of you participated in. You’ll be invited to a release party at the beginning of the next semester, but in the meantime you can check it out on our website here.

UPDATE: The release party is Wednesday, Sept. 27, from 6-8p, in room 5409. Hear from contributors, have refreshments, help create the next zine! Facebook event page here.

We’re looking forward to continuing to fight together with you for a just contract, this summer, in the fall, and as long as it takes!

In solidarity,
The Adjunct Project

Non-Negotiable: Adjunct Parity in the Next PSC-CUNY Contract

Since the fall, the Adjunct Project has been working in coalition with CUNY Struggle and the adjunct committee of the Graduate Center’s Professional Staff Congress chapter to amplify and organize around the need to achieve adjunct parity in the next contract. To that end, the three groups collectively authored and released the following statement at the beginning of this semester.

Non-Negotiable: Adjunct Parity in the Next PSC-CUNY Contract

A Joint Statement by the PSC GC Adjunct Committee, the Adjunct Project, and CUNY Struggle

January 30, 2017

Adjunct parity can mean either a complete end to the multi-tier system of faculty labor (such as in the case of Vancouver Community College, where all faculty do the same work, have the same working conditions, and are on the same salary schedule, pro-rated for those working less than full time) or a pro-rata salary schedule for “part-time” faculty so that their wages are in proportion to that of full-time lecturers (as in the case of the California State University). Although many of us would like to see the “Vancouver model” in place at the City University of New York, where adjuncts make roughly 29% to 38% of full-time salaries, have little to no job security, and are largely sidelined from service and research, we recognize that the U.S. labor context and the much-larger scale of CUNY complicate the achievement of that goal.

Nevertheless, as we—a group of graduate students at the Graduate Center working as both graduate assistants and adjuncts—have discussed adjunct parity over the last few months, we have come to agreement on the following bottom-line, non-negotiable demands for the upcoming round of bargaining vis-à-vis the expiration of the current PSC-CUNY contract in November 2017:

  1. A pro-rata salary schedule for all part-time faculty in proportion to the full-time lecturer salary schedules, with a minimum salary of $7,000 per three-credit course;
  2. Genuine job security in the form of a seniority system based on date of original appointment and the number of credits taught over time;
  3. Representation of part-time faculty and graduate employees on the bargaining committee in proportion to their numbers in the overall bargaining unit.

Although the first two demands would not end the multi-tier system of faculty labor at CUNY, they would produce substantial movement toward parity between the salary and job security of part-time and full-time faculty. The last demand, meanwhile, would produce parity in the bargaining committee, which we hope would help the overall bargaining committee hold fast to the first two demands.

In solidarity,

Graduate Center Graduate Assistants and Adjuncts of:

the PSC GC Adjunct Committee

the Adjunct Project

CUNY Struggle

If you’d like to get involved in this effort, contact us!

Toward a Just Contract in 2017: A Roundtable on Critical Issues

just contract
Today the Adjunct Project hosts our first formal event of the academic year, the kick-off to our “Toward a Just Contract in 2017” series we’ll be presenting through the current CUNY-PSC contract’s expiration in November 2017.

For this event, we’re focusing on some of the many issues that were largely, or totally, omitted from the last round of bargaining that resulted in the contract just ratified this past August—and the issues that need to be discussed, amplified, and centered in the next round of contract bargaining between the PSC and CUNY.

Look for notes from this event to be posted here, and mark your calendars for two more events this fall semester:

(1) a news conference we’re holding to announce the results of the hours-worked survey (which you can still take!) at 1p on Wednesday, November 16th, at the Graduate Center (GC), and

(2) another roundtable, this time focused on graduate student-workers of color, for which we’re collaborating with the GC’s Teaching and Learning Center, at 5:30p on Monday, December 5th.

In addition to these events, we’re working on and involved in a number of other initiatives, so feel free to reach out to us to find out more or to get involved.

And—feel free to use the hashtag #justcontract2017 in connection with any of these events, or to raise your own points and issues at any time. We’ll make sure to retweet you!

7 Reasons We Advocate a ‘No’ Vote on the Tentative Contract


On Thursday, June 16th, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) announced it had reached a tentative contract with CUNY management, and the following evening it released a summary of the contract’s details. By Wednesday, June 22nd, the “memorandum of agreement” providing the contract’s full details started to circulate, although as of this writing that memorandum hadn’t been officially distributed to the PSC’s membership at large. And on Thursday, June 23rd, the PSC’s Delegate Assembly voted to endorse the tentative contract by 111-11. It will now be sent to the union membership for ratification, in which all of us—higher education officers (HEOs), tenured and full-time faculty, CUNY Language Immersion Program (CLIP) and CUNY Start instructors, graduate employees, and adjuncts, the group of workers the Adjunct Project was created by the Doctoral Students’ Council to serve 22 years ago—will be able to vote for or against it.

As the coordinators of the Adjunct Project, we recognize that many members of the bargaining unit are grateful just to have a tentative contract after six years without one, and we’re ourselves grateful for the work of so many people not just to reach this point but to amplify adjunct and graduate-employee concerns throughout this process. We recognize that there may be aspects of this tentative contract that are agreeable to some or many, and that the contract overall may be perceived, as one common reaction has it, as “better than nothing.” We also understand that, in the midst of austerity, the fight back from the threatened $485-million funding cut by the state—a fabricated crisis—and from management’s initial 6% economic offer are not just immediate victories but  important steps in the continuing struggle against austerity as an ongoing political economic project. Indeed, we look forward to participating in this struggle with even greater resolve going forward.

Nevertheless, and mindful of both the Adjunct Project’s and the Doctoral Students’ Council’s endorsements of striking as the only means to achieve a genuinely fair contract, we are advocating a “NO” vote on the tentative contract because it fails adjuncts, who teach approximately two-thirds of CUNY courses, by maintaining our unsustainably low wages and insecure employment status while increasing the disparity between our pay and employment status and that of full-time faculty. Moreover, the tentative contract fails all workers in the bargaining unit by its overall concessions to the state and management. We offer the following specifics:

(1) In providing across-the-board wage increases, the tentative contract further increases the pay disparity between full-time and part-time faculty. In order to decrease this pay gap—and achieve the “movement toward adjunct salary parity” the PSC called for as its third contract demand—adjuncts need to receive “equity pay” in the form of substantial raises over and above across-the-board wage increases. Under the terms of the tentative contract, the across-the-board pay increase of 10.41% (with compounding) will provide an adjunct lecturer at the bottom of the pay scale with $300+ more per course by the end of the contract ($3,222 [rounded], compared to the present $2,918 for a 15-week course). This keeps adjunct pay at an unfathomably low rate in spite of the fact that the Adjunct Project—and the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor, the Doctoral Students’ Council, and the Modern Language Association—call for a minimum of $7,000 per course, while the PSC’s First Fridays adjunct group endorsed a $5,000 minimum (a minimum the PSC itself has endorsed via its support for the National Mobilization for Equity). By comparison, a full professor at the lowest rung of the pay scale will receive an additional $7,000+ per year by the end of the contract ($68,803 currently, versus $75,975 under the proposed contract). 

(2) The signing bonuses reinforce this pay disparity. Full-time faculty and staff will receive a $1000 signing bonus, to be pro-rated for part-timers. However, adjuncts who are paid for just 45 hours of work per three-credit course while actually working many multiples of that amount will receive only a minimal signing bonus—and most of us won’t qualify for the designated adjunct bonus given the high bar set for obtaining it. Meanwhile, graduate employees will only receive $750 or $500 depending on what appointment they have (graduate assistant A, B, or C, or graduate assistant D, respectively).

(3) Instead of equity pay for adjuncts, the PSC conceded to management’s demand for what might be termed “elite pay,” or the up-to-15% raises that “select faculty and staff” will be able to receive under this contract beyond the upper limit of the pay schedule. This concession not only considerably widens the pay disparity at the top end: it also shows that additional money can be found for targeted wage increases.

(4) Although the three-year appointments for adjuncts are being hailed as a breakthrough by some, the details prove otherwise. First, the three-year appointments are only a pilot program, fully contingent upon management’s approval to continue them beyond the initial five-year trial period. Second, management reserves the right to appoint adjuncts to the three-year terms on the basis of the “fiscal and programmatic needs of the department and/or the college” (provision #4 in the relevant section of the memorandum of agreement), which means even under the pilot program, adjuncts will be appointed at management’s discretion, just as we are now. Third, the appointments will not apply to the majority of adjuncts, who won’t meet the requirement of teaching six credits a semester in the same department for 10 continuous semesters. Further, since most of us will not qualify for the appointments, the appointments create yet another tier of employment status within the faculty ranks. Finally, the three-year appointments, which will require a “tenure-lite” review triannually, are a far cry from the “Certificate of Continuous Employment” the PSC listed as its 22nd demand, in which adjuncts, after teaching a minimum of 12 contact hours for one department in five of the previous seven years, would undergo a single review and then could only be terminated for just cause. Instead, a seniority system, for which the First Fridays group and others lobbied, would be the best job protection short of tenure.

(5) The 9/6 rule will remain, which limits adjuncts to teaching nine credits at one campus and six credits at another. Many of us lobbied for either an outright end to this policy—a PSC rule that ostensibly limits our exploitation—or its significant relaxation, so that we could have more control over our teaching schedules (say, by centralizing our teaching at one campus, thus increasing and solidifying our presence there while cutting down or eliminating travel time between campuses). Again, as adjuncts and graduate student workers, we should and must be paid more, but until we achieve parity, we should be able to work more and have more choice about where we work.

(6) The 10.41% across the board wage increase is less than the rate of inflation (12%) since the last wage increase went into effect in 2009, and is considerably less than the cost-of-living increase in the New York City area over that same period (above 20%, according to various estimates).

(7) Ultimately, incrementalism will not end either the two-tier system of faculty labor at CUNY nor the austerity program of New York State and CUNY management. Indeed, austerity can only be defeated by following through on the strike authorization and taking other bold, imaginative, committed, collective action.

Thus we’re left with no option but to vote “NO” on this contract, an obligation we share with fellow adjuncts, graduate student workers, and all those who recognize that our union is only as strong as the most exploited among us. Voting “NO” also makes it clear to our bargaining team and to CUNY management that “better than nothing” isn’t good enough—not after six years without a raise, and not at a moment when we’re more organized and ready to fight than ever. Finally, voting “NO” means not giving up on the strike that we campaigned for and authorized with a 92% majority, and which remains the most powerful tool at our disposal to secure a contract worthy of our labor. We’ve waited too long and fought too hard to accept this contract. By refusing to accept it—by refusing to wait for another endless round of negotiations on the next contract—we also refuse to accept the worsening status quo. We know in our working hearts, minds, and bodies what we need to do, and we look forward to a vigorous discussion about it after we say “NO!”

With love and solidarity,

The Adjunct Project coordinators

[Image: “Striking clothing workers parade” via Digital Collections, UIC Library via CC BY-NC-Nd 2.0.]

The Adjunct Project Endorses the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions


The Adjunct Project endorses the Resolution Endorsing the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions, scheduled to be voted on at the April 15 plenary meeting of the Doctoral Students’ Council (DSC) at the Graduate Center, CUNY. This resolution responds to a call from Palestinian academic workers in the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and the General Union of Palestinian Teachers, among other Palestinian labor and civil-society organizations. If passed, it would require the DSC to adhere to the boycott of Israeli academic institutions and support the work of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) groups and other solidarity efforts.

Palestinian workers face some of the world’s highest unemployment rates and are increasingly forced to take exploitative, unregulated, non-unionized jobs. Answering the call to boycott is a refusal to cooperate with institutions complicit in Palestinian workers’ exploitation and occupation.  

In New York City and across North America, groups supporting Palestinians have come under attack. Students, faculty, and other workers associated with CUNY SJP chapters currently face unsupported charges of anti-Semitism that infringe on their freedom of speech, their academic freedom, and their working conditions. The Adjunct Project joins the SJPs in vehemently opposing anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and all forms of bigotry and racism. We advocate an end to Israeli state apartheid policies as a specifically anti-racist and anti-colonial project.

We further condemn local and state politicians who attempt to justify a regime of austerity through the suppression of solidarity organizing on campuses. In March, the New York State Senate voted for a $485-million reduction in state funding for CUNY in part as retribution for Palestinian solidarity organizing on campuses. This planned defunding failed in last-minute budget negotiations, but the CUNY system still faces a massive shortfall: in addition to millions of dollars in cuts to individual colleges, no funds were allocated for contract negotiations with the 25,000 workers represented by the Professional Staff Congress who have gone six years without a pay increase.

The passage of this academic-boycott resolution is important for resisting both the austerity politics that target public employees like CUNY workers and, in particular, the effects of such politics on working-class people-of-color students, faculty, and staff, who must contend with forms of structural racism, settler colonialism, and racial capitalism similar to those faced by Palestinians.

We join the graduate student worker union UAW 2865 at the University of California in endorsing academic boycott and the many other academic groups that have done so as well, including the Association for Asian American Studies, the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, the Critical Ethnic Studies Association, the African Literature Association, the American Studies Association, the American Anthropological Association, and the National Women’s Studies Association, and we support the GSOC for BDS caucus of the union of graduate student workers at New York University in their referendum on BDS, including academic boycott.

The boycott resolution before the DSC is an important step in supporting the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. We encourage representatives of the DSC to vote for the resolution, and all members of the CUNY community to raise awareness, through resources like those provided by Labor for Palestine, and to support or get involved with efforts on their campuses, including CUNY for Palestine and SJP chapters.

With love and solidarity,

The Adjunct Project coordinators

[Image: “Palestine: The Separation Wall” by MissyKel via CC BY-NC-Nd 2.0.]

The Adjunct Project Endorses a Strike (and Related Organizing)

Madison Square Garden (?) strike mtg

Since the beginning of this academic year, there has been talk of a strike as the only way to ensure a decent contract with CUNY management, which the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) has been steadily bargaining with since June 2014 (after an initial bargaining session in January 2011). Six years have passed since the last contract expired, and management, having made a measly contract offer that would essentially amount to a pay cut for faculty and staff, has declared an impasse.

The possibility of a strike first became tangible when the PSC announced in October that it would hold a strike-authorization vote that, if successful, would allow the PSC’s Executive Council to call a strike. Subsequently, the PSC has been asking its members to publicly declare their intention to vote yes on that strike-authorization vote when it occurs; in response, a range of additional organizing has also ensued.

Now, despite management’s notice of impasse, preparations for a strike-authorization vote continue; indeed, if management has essentially given up on bargaining, as the notice of impasse indicates, holding a strike seems all the more crucial.

In this context, having deliberated among ourselves as Adjunct Project coordinators, and having consulted with numerous other parties over the last several months, the Adjunct Project has decided to endorse a strike because we believe that it is, indeed, the only way to ensure a decent contract. Further, we believe that a strike is essential to ensuring that adjunct needs and student needs are sufficiently met in the contract.

To this end, we are endorsing four related initiatives in support of both a strike and the centering of adjunct and student needs:

  1. the PSC’s public pledge to vote yes on the strike-authorization vote, to indicate that you support a strike and will vote yes on the strike-authorization vote when it occurs;
  2. the Alternative Strike Pledge for Adjuncts and Allies, to indicate that you support a strike that specifically centers adjunct and student concerns;
  3. the Adjunct Message Center, to support the demands of long-time adjuncts and to convey them to the PSC leadership; and
  4. the CUNY Struggle CUNY-wide popular assembly on Sat. 3/12, a forum to discuss and unify worker demands from across CUNY.

We encourage everyone who reads this statement to affirm or participate in the aforementioned initiatives how you see fit, and we look forward to continuing to work with you and adjunct allies across CUNY in support of a strike.

Our next steps in this effort will be (1) a resolution affirming a strike that we plan to bring to the Doctoral Students’ Council in March, and (2) a panel discussion, “The Will to Strike (Against the Taylor Law),” on April 6th, a sequel of sorts to our 2011 event “Breaking the Taylor Law” (which can be watched here). Stay tuned for more details.

[Photo: “A large crowd gathers [at Madison Square Garden?] during the 1933 New York Dressmakers Strike. A sign in the background reads: ‘…Makers Union ILGWU.'” via the Kheel Center by CC BY 2.0.]

From the Archives: Confronting the Taylor Law (2011)

Confronting the Taylor Law image

[The following text is courtesy of GC student Conor Tomás Reed.]

On May 4, 2011, the CUNY Adjunct Project hosted the event “‘What Do You Mean I Can’t Strike?’: Confronting the Taylor Law” (full video here) featuring the speakers Cindy Gorn, Ajamu Sankofa, Jeffrey Perry, and Marvin Holland, the facilitator Conor Tomás Reed, and a packed room of NYC rank-and-file militants. This final dialogue in a spring-2011 series occurred in the wake of the Arab Spring revolts and Wisconsin Capitol occupation, and before the May 12 “Day of Rage” Wall Street protests, June-July Bloombergville encampment, and September-November Occupy Wall Street transformation of Zuccotti Park.

The speakers shared about union struggles that led to the Taylor Law’s creation; lessons from 1970s postal workers’ wildcat strikes; the links between job precarity and targeted political firings; and the 2005 NYC transit workers’ strike and aftermath of Taylor Law repression.

As the CUNY faculty and staff union the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) debates anew the possibility of a strike in connection with the current contract campaign, within a city reeling from both austerity and mass protests, this 2011 dialogue can inform potential dangers and radical breakthroughs ahead.

Video recorded and edited by Jill Humphries, PhD.

Event poster designed by Adriano Contreras.

We Are Workers: Graduate Worker Day of Action—GC Edition!

We Are Workers flyer version

Join the CUNY Adjunct Project, graduate workers from different GC programs, and graduate-worker officers of the GC PSC chapter, to discuss our unique role in the academic-labor system as simultaneously students and academic workers.

Thursday, October 15, room 5414.
Lunch provided at 12:30p; roundtable discussion at 1p.

This event is part of the national “We Are Workers: Graduate Day of Action” being observed by graduate-worker unions on Oct. 15 in connection with the National Labor Relations Board’s pending decision on whether graduate students at private universities are also workers and therefore able to unionize. Please see our joint statement here.

We hope to see you there!

Web designer needed to revamp AP site!

Hello to everyone, and hope you’re doing well!

Jenn, Luke, and I, along with our friends/colleagues at OpenCUNY, have agreed for some time that the Adjunct Project website—this site right here that you’re visiting—could use a redesign to make it more streamlined and easily navigable. We’ve been trying to work on this project ourselves over the last year or so but it’s always slid to the back burner because of higher-priority issues.

Fortunately, we finally realized we could reach out to the Adjunct Project, Graduate Center, and CUNY communities in order to find someone who’d want to take up this task.

The details:

We know the basic website model we’d like to emulate—it’s WordPress-based, like our current site—and we can offer $401.52 in compensation, our monthly individual wage as AP coordinators during the academic year. We each work about 24 hours a month, and we expect the redesign to take far less time than that—though the work doesn’t have to happen in a month’s time: there’s no rush, so long as the redesign is ready for the start of the fall semester. (We can talk more about timing in the initial consultation.)

Beyond the above, our only additional consideration is that we want to find a CUNY graduate student worker or post-grad adjunct for the job, so if the prospect of redesigning the AP site resonates with you, let us know! And if it doesn’t, please circulate this post to your various listservs and to your web-design-savvy GC/CUNY pals!

All inquiries to me (Sean M. Kennedy) at, please, along with one or two samples of previous web-design work. Thanks!


What: Adjunct Project website redesign

Who: you or someone you know, at the GC or CUNY

When: between now and the start of the fall 2015 semester

How: less than 24 hours of labor, for compensation of $401.52

Contact: Sean M. Kennedy (

Please share this post via social media—just click one of the buttons below!

National Adjunct Walkout Day at the Grad Center

NAWD best group shot

Today was National Adjunct Walkout Day (NAWD), a first-of-its-kind grassroots action in which some adjuncts at colleges and universities across the country walked out of their classroom in protest of their—our—unfair pay and working conditions as second-tier faculty.

At CUNY, no adjuncts walked out due to New York State’s 1967 Taylor Law, which prohibits public employees from striking (though at a Professional Staff Congress Graduate Center chapter meeting over lunch today, Stanley Aronowitz made an impassioned plea to break the Taylor Law in order to break the our contract-bargaining impasse with the state, which hasn’t okayed an economic offer yet).

Instead, adjuncts, graduate employees, and other faculty taught about academic labor and adjunctification in their classes (resources to do so, anytime), tabled in common spaces on their campuses, and held meetings, departmental and otherwise, to discuss the significance of NAWD and the adjunct struggle broadly.

At the Graduate Center, the CUNY Adjunct Project collaborated with GC students to make and hold a banner in front of the GC’s entrance pointing out that, while adjuncts make up 59% of CUNY’s total faculty, they’re only paid 29%-38% of what full-time faculty are paid. In addition to the banner, we created a flyer (see it below) that provided more data and analysis, and which explained the Taylor Law and its effects, to hand out to both GC students, faculty, and visitors as well as passersby on the busy block on which the GC is located, just north of the Empire State Building. A few PSC organizers also joined us and handed out an additional flyer that amplified the message of the day.

We held the banner and flyered from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at which point we went upstairs to the aforementioned chapter lunch meeting (an important opportunity to share news and discuss various labor matters). No doubt we would’ve reached more people if we’d stayed longer, especially given the uptick in people traffic as the lunch rush continued, but we gave out 400+ flyers in the hour we were there, a decent result. And the banner’s being used again for an action at CUNY’s Hostos Community College on Friday, as part of National Adjunct Action/Awareness Week, the longer-duration event NAWD gave rise to.

People already have been asking us what’s next. Let us know what you’d like to see happen, and if you’d like to be involved in making it happen, in the comments to this post.

Below is the flyer we handed out, as well as a short video of the action and additional photos. If you’d like to amplify the action, use the hashtags listed in the flyer and post to Facebook, Twitter, or other social media.

CUNYAdjunctProject NAWD flyer


NAWD street shot w Jenn

NAWD looking downtown

NAWD street shot head

NAWD banner Jon and Sean

NAWD banner Erin

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