Thursday, October 15, 2015

Coverage of Today's Press Conference

By Conor Skelding
3:21 p.m. | Oct. 15, 2015
The Brooklyn College chapter of CUNY's faculty and staff union, the Professional Staff Congress, rallied outside the college gates on Thursday afternoon for a new contract without tuition increases.
"We're hoping that they move the message in Albany closer to the governor's office so that the chancellor, the governor, and the mayor will find the political will to sit down at the bargaining table," said James Davis, an English professor at Brooklyn College for 12 years.
The PSC has been working without a contract for five years. Agreement on a new contract requires the buy-in of not just the union and university, but city and state as well.
CUNY has also raised tuition $300 per year for the past five years under a plan approved by the state Legislature in 2011. Tuition is now $6,330 per year at CUNY's senior colleges.
"The PSC is strongly against additional tuition increases because we see it, fundamentally, as a tax on working-class people," Davis said. "Raising tuition on them, while asking nothing from the taxpayers — nothing more from the taxpayers — is in effect a tax increase."
Chancellor James Milliken told the City Council in July that he expected to have to use revenue from the most-recent increase to fund a collective bargaining agreement. He also said then that he expects the university to request further tuition increases.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

October 15th Austerity Press Conference

Press Release

Brooklyn College Faculty, Staff and Students launch #RespectCUNY Postcard Drive

Thursday, October 15th

12:30-1:30 PM

Bedford Ave. gates to Brooklyn College near Campus Road

Contact: Alex S. Vitale, 917-293-4862,

A coalition of Brooklyn College faculty, students, and staff officially launched a postcard drive today calling for State elected officials to fully support Brooklyn College and CUNY without relying on additional tuition increases. Tuition has gone up every year for the last 5 years, but state funding has not kept pace with growing enrollments. This year state failed to fund $51 million in mandatory cost increases CUNY wide. This has caused significant budget shortfall at Brooklyn College, leading to larger class sizes, fewer available classes, and diminished student services. Employees at the college from maintenance workers to painters to professors have been without a contract for over 5 years and most employees have not had raises during that time.  Anselma Rodriguez a Higher Education Officer (“HEO”) said that “every year expenses in New York are going up, especially for housing, but our pay has stagnated. It’s time the state made resources available to CUNY to pay for decent raises.”

The decline in public support is a national problem, so the Ethyl Wolfe institute for the Humanities is hosting a day-long event today entitled “Austerity and Its Discontents: The Fight to Reclaim Public Higher Education.” Speakers from across the country will be discussing the reasons for the cut backs and strategies for reversing this troubling trend. Speakers attending the press conference include Rudy Fichtenbaum, President of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), and Eleni Schirmer and Michael Billeaux from the University of Wisconsin.

The postcard being launched today is being distributed to thousands of students, employees, alumni, and community supporters. It calls on local elected officials to “work in Albany for full funding for CUNY, including its employee contracts, and to increase financial aid without burdening students with higher tuition.” A printed version of the card is addressed to local Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte, and an on-line version is addressed to both her and State Senator Kevin Parker. The online version can be found at here.

The postcard also uses the hashtag #RespectCUNY, which is linked to a Twitter campaign to raise awareness about the need for better funding for CUNY. We are using the Twitter handle @psccunybc.

During the event students and faculty will be circulating postcards for students to sign during the lunch break between classes.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

April 2015 Address to the Stated Meeting of the Faculty

Stated Meeting

Alex S. Vitale

April 30, 2015

I want to thank you all for wearing your union t shorts today. And I apologize if you were not able to get one. Over the next few weeks I hope you will wear them in class and initiate conversations with students about the need for a fully funded contract. There will be a CUNY wide t-shirt day on Tuesday, May12th, but there is no need to wait until then. It is important that we begin explaining to students that failure to provide adequate salaries and decent working conditions for faculty and professional staff undermines their education. Our students deserve the best and the cutting of our salaries relative to inflation undermines hiring and moral. We deserve more and our students deserve more.

So far CUNY has been unable to put forward a financial offer, lacking authorization from Gov. Cuomo in particular. The Gov. has indicated that any raises that do end up being authorized are likely to come out of CUNY operating budgets, which would be a major problem. The PSC has been working hard in Albany to get the legislature to put aside money to pay for raises, but more work needs to be done. CUNY, for the first time, seems to be on the same page with us on this.

Unfortunately, CUNY has not been able to produce results. Further, CUNY has been slow to act on a number of non-economic issues such as intellectual property rights for faculty developing on line materials, promotional opportunities for HEO’s, and enhanced job security for adjuncts, as well as lower cost items like annual leave for librarians.

As a result, we are asking you to do two additional things. First, we need to strengthen our political operation in Albany. Members of the chapter’s Executive Committee are handing out VOTE COPE cards for you to fill out. These optional funds give us resources to lobby more effectively in Albany and at City Hall. As a public sector union we have to be active in this arena, regardless of any distaste we may have for electoral politics. Please consider pledging $5-10 a pay period and returning the forms to one of us after the meeting.

Second, at our next chapter meeting we will be discussing the possibility of extraordinary tactics in our fight to win a decent contract. We will hear from union leaders about the legal and political implications of striking and undertaking direct actions. We have invited leaders from the TWU and the national Lawyers Guild to share their expertise and experience with us. We will also explore actions we can take through faculty governance, as well as any ideas you may have about how to put pressure on CUNY, the Governor, and the State Legislature.  That meeting will be Thursday, May 14th at 12:30 in 222 Whitehead.