The Professional Staff Congress, the union that represents over 27,000 CUNY faculty and staff, has called for a disruptive mass action rally at CUNY’s central office on 42nd street on 4 November to support the PSC team as it sits down for another round of negotiations with the CUNY management. This rally is one of a series of mass actions planned by the PSC in its “escalation” of the campaign to push for a fair settlement of a contract that has been long overdue.
On 1 October, the morning of the first CUNY board meeting of the year, hundreds of PSC members gathered outside Chancellor Milliken’s apartment for a “wake-up call” protest. Many professors turned up dressed in academic robes and sounded off alarm clocks, pots and pans. The protestors held up picket signs that read “No more excuses, Chancellor Milliken” and “6 years without a raise,” as they chanted, “No contract, no peace,” and “Education is a Right! Fight, Fight, Fight!”
In addition, the PSC also held a series of teach-ins at its various chapters over this month to raise awareness of the state of CUNY funding, the increases in student tuition, and the larger impact of these austerity measures on the quality of education. These teach-in sessions are a means to encourage faculty across the various CUNY colleges to find pedagogically suitable ways to discuss the funding crisis and the need for a fair contract in classrooms.
The Graduate Center chapter of the PSC, in a meeting on 20 October, seriously discussed the possibility of a strike authorization vote. A strike authorization vote is not a vote to strike, which is illegal and penalized in New York state under the Taylor Law. It is rather a vote to authorize the union’s Executive Council to call a strike if necessary. Barbara Bowen, the President of the PSC, in a letter from 15 October, asserts that, “A strike authorization vote is not a step the union leadership takes lightly, even though it is many steps away from actually calling a strike.” This issue, along with the details of the Taylor Law, will be tabled for discussion in the next PSC mass meeting on 19 November.
The disruptive action scheduled for 4 November, which itself is legal, will be executed solely by PSC members who have been training in practices of “non-violent disruptive protest,” and will risk arrest with their participation. The PSC, however, encourages people to attend the rally in solidarity, to be witness to the protest, which in itself does not entail a risk of arrest.