Students and professors to call for wage justice at Queens-based CUNY commencements

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The City University of New York faculty and students will stand in solidarity calling for fair wages for professors at Queens-based CUNY commencements in May and June.

The Professional Staff Congress (PSC), a union that represents 30,000 professors and academic staff at CUNY, will lead a series of public actions to urge New York’s elected leaders and CUNY management to resolve negotiations over the PSC-CUNY contract and ensure wage justice at CUNY.

Graduates and faculty marching in procession will wear stickers on their caps and gowns supporting the union’s demand for a fair contract with competitive salaries for underpaid faculty and staff, and $7,000 per course for exploited adjunct instructors.

Students and faculty will march together at commencement ceremonies held at York College, Queens College and LaGuardia Community College. Flyers will invite parents, friends and supporters to add their voices to the campaign for increased public funding for CUNY.

“It’s a privilege to work with Queens-based CUNY students, and no day in their college careers means more than the day of graduation. Earning a college degree is transformative — often for whole families, not just for the students themselves,” said Barbara Bowen, president of the PSC. “We are demonstrating in solidarity with our students at graduation ceremonies across the university because we want to ensure there is a CUNY for the next generation of students.”   

CUNY colleges lead the nation in economic mobility rankings, but many students do not have the support they need to graduate, according to the 2016 Social Mobility Index created by CollegeNET, a company that provides web-based services to some 1,300 higher education and nonprofit institutions around the world.

Full-time salaries at CUNY lag thousands of dollars behind those at comparable institutions. CUNY’s 12,000 adjunct faculty teach the majority of courses, but are paid a near-poverty wage forcing adjuncts to find additional part-time employment, according to a PSC report.

Raising adjunct pay to $7,000 per course would relieve the financial pressures on adjuncts, allow them to spend more time with students, and contribute to raising college completion rates, the report said.  

Per-student state funding for CUNY senior colleges decreased 18 percent between 2008 and 2018, adjusted for inflation. CUNY colleges have been forced again this year to cut their already reduced budgets.

The actions come on the heels of an advertising campaign in Albany and New York City featuring CUNY students calling for New York’s elected officials to ensure that CUNY professors, staff and adjuncts are paid fairly.

“Without a commitment to increased public funding and decent salaries, CUNY will not be able to go on providing the high-quality education the class of 2019 received,” Bowen said. “The graduation procession this year will be a march for continuing opportunity and education justice for the people of New York.”

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