Latest Move in Search of a Contract
By Clifford Michel
PSC-CUNY voted on October 15 to hold a strike authorization vote, which would give the union’s executive council the power to authorize a strike, one of the most powerful tools unions have in their arsenal.
The union’s delegate assembly passed a resolution in support of the vote after PSC-CUNY President Barbara Bowen announced the plan.
The union, which represents 25,000 faculty and staff at CUNY, has been without a contract since 2010 and has directed much of their attention to CUNY Chancellor James Milliken.
“The PSC has used every legal means at its disposal to achieve a fair contract, and we will do everything we can to reach a contract settlement without the need to strike.” Bowen said in a statement.
“Given CUNY management’s continued failure to secure State funding and put an economic offer on the table, we cannot rule out being prepared for a strike.”
A strike authorization vote is unusual for a public-sector union in New York due to the severity of the Taylor Law, but it is legal.
The Taylor Law prohibits state employees from striking and imposes a fine worth two days pay for every day a worker strikes as well as other legal penalties.
In an interview with POLITICO New York, Bowen said that the union is treading carefully and hasn’t even begun the conversations of actually striking.
“I understand what the penalties are for the Taylor Law. I think it’s a very unbalanced and unfair law. It’s an anti-labor provision to have such a strong prohibition on job action.
“But we are very, very far from even calling a strike,” Bowen told the news outlet. “We are not engaging in any prohibited action now. This is many steps away, and we hope we can reach a resolution without having to engage those question.”
Milliken has said in a university wide note that settling a new contract is the CUNY’s “highest priority” but has pointed towards a lack of funding from the state legislature as the reason for not doing so.
Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters in September that it’s up to CUNY to settle the issue.
“It’s up to CUNY, the way it’s up to SUNY, to settle their labor contract,” said Cuomo. “They got the money, they have a budget, and they have to pay the salaries from their budget.”
The strike authorization vote will be held on November 19.
Union members are also planning to hold demonstrations to put further pressure on Chancellor Milliken and the state Legislature on November 4.