Tonight there will be an important rally/meeting about the possibility of a job action"" in response to the CUNY administration's failure to offer the CUNY faculty a reasonable wage. The meeting is tonight at Cooper Union from 6:00 to 8:30pm. The faculty have been without a contract since 2002, and the university's offer to the faculty has been a raise below the rate of inflation, concessions on issues of governance - such as taking the Department chairs out of union bargaining unit and making them into administrative apointees (heavens!), and even asking that faculty come back a week earlier in the fall to "make up" for the tiny money that management would be willing to pay into our medical benefits fund. Since the city budget is actually in a SURPLUS* right now, we say that we should be able to do better. All of this doesn't even include the ridiculous management ideas about intellectual property. However, our anti-union mayor and Governor, and our anti-CUNY legislature don't want to pay CUNY faculty adequately. The situation of CUNY faculty now is nowhere near comparable to that of faculty at other universities. The only thing that keeps the school competitive in hiring is its presence in New York City, as many faculty, like myself, prefer to live in NYC than some small town in western Ohio, even if it means a gawdawful teaching load (that would be nine courses a year if you teach in a community college) and an inadequate salary.
As union president Barbara Bowen has argued,
In the late 1980s and the 1990s, this union signed off on a series of concessionary contracts. We all live the results: a 35-45% drop since 1972 in the buying power of our salaries, crushing workloads, increasing costs of healthcare. The 2000-2002 contract, the first negotiated under new leadership, broke the concessionary pattern. We won the first above-inflation salary increases in a decade and an increase in Welfare Fund contributions by CUNY management. The contract also brought new ideas: research time for untenured faculty, professional development grants for academic professionals, paid office hours for adjuncts to meet with students.
What does that mean? For this professor, it means not being able to afford a one-bedroom apartment and living with room-mates found on Craig's list at the age of 36. It means figuring out how to do a year's worth of research in the two and 1/2 months off in the summer time IF I don't try to supplement my meagre salary with a summer class. It means teaching THREE history surveys in a row one day and TWO on the other. It means not having enough money to attend conferences in my field. It means sharing an office which doesn't have enough space for books, much less two people. It means not having enough money to subscribe to professional journals. I have a feeling it means that jobs at CUNY will become less and less attractive to new PhDs if this sort of thing continues. It means not getting dental work done because the insurance doesn't pay for it. Clearly, it's time for action. The question I have is whether CUNY faculty are ready to demand better for themselves. A lot of people in the service professions, such as teaching, especially at under-funded public institutions tend to be a little bit too self-sacrificing.
* Read next post for discussion of whether city is in a defecit or a surplus.