By: Olivia Frasca
Nearly 3,000 members of the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), the largest union of CUNY faculty and staff, were laid off at the end of June. Over 400 have lost their health insurance.
The College of Staten Island announced that it would begin laying off adjuncts in May. Part-time professors make up the majority of CSI faculty.
A student-led petition was created this month to bring awareness to the effects of COVID-19 related budget cuts at CSI. Layoffs are not just a faculty problem, but also diminish the quality of instruction and range of course choices offered to students.
On July 18, hundreds took to the streets of their respective campuses to protest budget cuts and demand that CUNY reinstate laid-off employees. Unionists, community leaders, and supporters gathered for car and bike caravans throughout four boroughs: Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.
Meanwhile, nearly 700 people joined the movement via Zoom. Union representatives and students shared impactful statements as participants viewed a livestream of the caravans.
“The members of the PSC refuse to normalize cuts and layoffs at CUNY,” stated PSC President Barbara Bowen. “And we will not allow the University administration to put the lives of our members and students at risk by returning to campus before it is safe.”
“Without adequate public funding to educate its 272,000 students, CUNY has relied on a corps of 12,000 adjuncts, hired mostly on a course-by-course basis for lower pay and with less job security than their full-time colleagues,” according to a recent report from the PSC website.
Adjuncts were not compensated for the time spent converting their courses to an online format last semester.
Caravaners and Zoom participants shared their thoughts on social media. #CUNYSummerofStruggle and #CutCOVIDnotCUNY trended on Twitter.
@JUvanie07 of @USSSCUNY on Zoom. An amazing advocate for CUNY students, faculty & staff. We’re fighting together in @CUNYRising to fight for Free and Quality CUNY education. #cutcovidnotcuny #CUNYSummerOfStruggle pic.twitter.com/I3HBdL0Gcj
— PSC_CUNY (@PSC_CUNY) July 18, 2020
— CWA Local 1102 (@cwa1102) July 18, 2020
CUNY received $251 million in relief funds under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which prompted the union to question the necessity of the deep cuts.
The PSC filed a lawsuit against CUNY on July 1 and alleged it has failed “to comply with its obligations under the [CARES Act] and honor its promise to, to the greatest extent practicable, continue to pay its employees during the period of any disruptions or closures related to the coronavirus pandemic.”
The union plans to hold another CUNY-wide protest on the first day of fall classes, August 26.