CUNY Teachers Ramp Up Rhetoric On Possible Strike


As Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio debate over the state’s contribution to the City University of New York in the FY17 budget, the CUNY union representing 25,000 faculty members and professional staff continues to ramp up the rhetoric of a strike.

That after CUNY Management earlier this week declared that contract negotiations are at an impasse, which resulted in Professional Staff Congress (the union) President Barbara Bowen to urge members to vote for an authorization to strike. PSC workers have been on the job without a contract since 2010.

“This is the same CUNY management that refused for five years to make an economic offer to the union, and then proposed a salary cut when the offer finally came. This is the same CUNY management that has made one and only one economic offer, refused to make an economic response to the PSC’s 14% counter proposal, and then promptly declared impasse. This is the same CUNY management that has failed spectacularly to win contract funding from New York State, and then refused the union’s offer to make a joint public statement about the need for more support,” wrote Bowen in an email to union members asking for the authorization to strike.

Bowen noted Cuomo included in his budget proposal a line-item for $240 million “to support retroactive salary increases needed to ensure fair and affordable agreements with CUNY’s labor unions.” The proposal is complicated, however, because it is linked to a massive proposed cut in State funding for CUNY and a call for the City to make up the difference, she wrote.

The New York City College of Technology in Downtown Brooklyn is one of four CUNY colleges in Brooklyn that could be bracing for a faculty strike.

Following Cuomo’s proposed budget, he issued a clarification that the cost shift “won’t cost New York City a penny,” a statement that de Blasio repeated at Tuesday’s Legislative hearing on the State budget, where he also called for a new contract for the PSC. 

“The real issue in this contract is not mediation; it’s money. What CUNY management should be doing instead of slowing down negotiations with a declaration of impasse is working with the PSC to secure the funds necessary for decent raises and restoration of CUNY’s budget-without reliance on further tuition increases,” wrote Bowen.

Bowen called on CUNY management to work with the union to lobby Albany for a final budget that includes both the $240 million for retroactive raises and an increase in overall State funding. However, if things go wrong for CUNY in budget negotiations, and with the union’s relationship with management, Bowen urged members to sign onto a petition that more than a thousand members have already signed to authorize a strike.

“The union will negotiate with every drop of energy we have, and we will do everything we can to achieve a fair contract without a strike, but we cannot and will not apologize for organizing our membership to stand up for what we deserve,” she wrote.

Brooklyn CUNY schools include Brooklyn College, Medgar Evers College, the New York City College of Technology and Kingsborough Community College.