Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bowen's Boondoggle

According to Sarah Garland of the New York Sun, in 2006, the New York City schoolteachers negotiated a contract that will expire in 2009. The contract gave the teachers a 7.1% annual raise over 2008-2009.

The Sun quotes the United Federation of Teachers' President Randi Weingarten:

"Pointing to a total increase in teacher salaries of more than 40% since 2002, Ms. Weingarten said, "Finally we are making real progress."

In contrast to 40% gains in teacher salaries, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), the union that represents the faculty of the City University of New York, in the last contract that ran from 2004 to 2007 negotiated a 6% increase over three years.

On June 23, 2008 Barbara Bowen, the PSC president, released a letter describing a new contract that runs from 2007 to 2010. It includes the following increases:

****3.15%, effective September 20, 2007
****4.00%, effective October 6, 2008
****3.00%, effective October 20, 2009

In other words, the Barbara Bowen and the PSC negotiated increases at about half of what New York City's schoolteachers received. And this on top of increases less than half of what the schoolteachers received in the last contract as well. In comparison to the 40% from 2002-9, the PSC has won 16% from 2004-10, about 40% of what the teachers have won.

Despite this dismal performance President Bowen writes in her letter:

"The tentative contract is a principled, creative settlement that combines increases throughout the salary scale with special increases at the top and the bottom. It includes a breakthrough on parental and family care, introduces a system for sharing sick days with those in need, adds a hundred new Lecturer lines reserved for experienced part-time faculty, and holds the line against management's agenda of corporatizing the University. The tentative settlement also includes new equity features, such as a salary differential for College Laboratory Technicians and Assistants to HEO with relevant masters or doctoral degrees, and an extra increase in each step of the Lecturer title. The tentative agreement comes with the strong support of the PSC negotiating committee."

Just a few days before the deal's announcement, the indomitable Sharad Karkhanis in his Patriot Returns newsletter expressed dismay at the union leadership's performance; its inept management; and governmental officials' indifference to the union leadership. He exhorts Bowen:

The PSC's propaganda paper (Clarion) boasts of your trips to Albany and your meetings with the mighty and powerful. But it seems to us that all this is baloney. Neither the New York media nor government authorities consider you relevant or powerful. You can be safely ignored, laughed at, forgotten. We wouldn't care, except that also forgotten, as a consequence, are the people you represent. No wonder you cannot get a good contract for CUNY faculty. Your tactics have deemed you irrelevant to the real media and those in decision making positions in the state. You are a failure in the eyes of the membership. They will not return you to that office again next year, Barbara.

For how long will the CUNY faculty be willing to tolerate the PSC leadership's incompetence?

1 comment:

Alex S. Vitale said...


This is not a very honest analysis. I'm sure you realize that all unions get esentially the same percent increases to put into their contracts unless they provide givebacks to management.

The UFT provided the city with significant givebacks in the form of additional hours of work each weeek to win higher pay. Our members have made it clear that they aren't willing to make the same deal. Do you want an increase in the work load?

If you have some ideas about what you would be willing to give back to managment in return for higher salaries you should pass that on to the union leadership, but don't mislead people about the nature of the finaical packages offered to the UFT and the PSC. Perhaps if you took a more active role in pressuring the city and state to support higher education, we would be in better shape.