Members of the City University of New York’s faculty union have overwhelmingly approved a strike authorization vote. More than 10,000 members of the Professional Staff Congress cast ballots and 92 percent of them voted in favor of empowering the union’s leadership to call a strike if it deemed it necessary.
“The union remains absolutely committed to achieving an acceptable contract through the negotiating process, but we are prepared to take action if there is no alternative,” PSC President Barbara Bowen said May 12 when the vote totals were announced. Bowen added that the earliest a strike would take place is in the fall.
The PSC’s 25,000 members have worked without a contract since 2010 and have not had a raise since 2009. During that same time, the cost of living in the city has gone up an average of 23 percent, according to the union.
Dozens of PSC members were arrested in November for blockading CUNY administration headquarters and again in March while conducting a “die-in” outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s midtown office. Years of underfunding by Albany have prevented a contract settlement and raised concerns about deteriorating conditions for both faculty and students at the nation’s largest urban university system.
Strikes by public sector unions are illegal under New York’s Taylor Law and are rarely attempted, as striking workers and their union can be slapped with heavy fines and union officers can be jailed for leading such an action.
But Bowen says that won’t weaken the resolve of PSC members.
“We are prepared to fight to defend our working conditions and our students’ learning conditions. Our own lives and the life-chances of our students are at stake.