Monday, July 25, 2016

How Much Can Unions Lift Adjuncts? CUNY Contract Fight Hinges on What’s Good Enough

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Peter Schmidt
July 25, 2016

The City University of New York’s faculty members are divided over a tentative contract and a longstanding question: Just how much can adjunct instructors expect to gain by belonging to unions?

CUNY’s faculty union, the Professional Staff Congress, says part-time faculty members should celebrate the gains it has made on their behalf in a hard-fought labor agreement. But many part-time instructors and graduate assistants oppose ratification of the new contract, arguing that it represents more of a defeat than a victory.

The agreement, accepted by CUNY’s administration and board last month, would offer many of the university system’s part-time instructors both much more job security and access to health insurance that they previously lacked. It would not substantially increase their pay, however, and would do little to close gaps between their earnings and those of their full-time counterparts.

Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress, last week said her union had "secured an enormous defensive victory" by winning the new contract and the state’s pledge of funds to cover it, especially considering that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, at that point had proposed a steep cut in state support for the university system.

While acknowledging that her union’s leaders view the agreement as far from perfect, Ms. Bowen nonetheless argued that "it is strongly in members’ interest to ratify the contract," because otherwise the union risks losing whatever ground it has gained.


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