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Vol. 34, No.2 May 24, 2006
CONTRACT INDIGESTION #1
Unlike most of the readers of The Patriot Returns, our editor-in-chief is a man of leisure. An emeritus professor, he can devote both time and energy to following the ever-shifting party line emanating from PSC headquarters, to recording on-campus "informational meetings," and to monitoring various e-mail list-serves and forae across the university. As a service to those of you far too busy supervising finals, grading exams, attending commencements and dealing with myriad details at the end of academic year, he has put together a e-digest of comments about and criticisms of the contract settlement proposed by that oddest of Odd Couples: Chancellor Goldstein and President Bowen. In order to prevent harassment by New Caucus' goons, The Patriot has provided only the academic affiliations of those quoted below; but rest assured that all of the following objections and observations have been made of late by CUNY staff and faculty.
On the Pitiful Pay Raise
"This is how the contract should have been presented:
Year 2 ½ May 2004 to May 2005: 2% of our salaries that we will never see because it is being applied to the dying Welfare Fund; 0.5 % in actual increase to our salary (do not complain, that is probably enough money to fill-up the tank a couple of times, and I'm talking the premium stuff!)
Year 3 ½ May 2005 to May 2006: It is only at this point that the previous increases become effective so you have to add whatever percentage of your salary the 800 bucks represent, the 0% that you did not get at the beginning of year 2, the 2% that you did not get at year 2 ½ and the generous 2.75 % for year 3 ½.
So the first real increase in salary is about 5.70% but it becomes effective thirty months after the contract started. So the honest way of presenting the contract would have been: a 0% increase for the first thirty months and 5.70% in the middle of the third year of the contract. And remember that contributions to the Welfare Fund out of what should have been retroactive pay are not an increase in salary.
Year 4 ½ May 2006 to September 2007: In New Caucus "speak" a year has seventeen months, and we a full 3% increase in salary!!!! (Should I order my BMW in metallic green or matte red?)
There is also a provision to add $800 the very last day of the contract. This means that Bowen and London in their infinite wisdom have already negotiated away the first year of the next contract." [QCC]
"Oh yes, let us not forget Barbie's math lesson" to all of us.....Oh, repeat after me, PSC's 9 ½% is equal to SUNY's 15%. Please...someone have Babs register for "remedial Math" and take the proficiency exam. [JJC]
On an Even More Woeful Welfare Fund
"It's not a contract...it's an "INSULT". Did Barb, Steve and Matt seriously think that they could hide the fact that the $30 million to beef up the Welfare Fund was coming out of our pockets??? To agree to this rubbish sets a dangerous precedent for the future. Once that door is open CUNY will NEVER let it shut again." [JJC]
"As per the NYC Controller in a recent report, we (PSC) are the only large union about to go belly-up....My son is an active member of the PBA and I can assure you that they are not in financial trouble. In fact, their benefit coverage: drug plan, dental plan, eye glass plan, legal assistance for personal matters (closings, etc.) life insurance etc. far exceed anything Ms. Bowen could imagine. She doesn't have a clue. When propagandizing at John Jay, Ms. Bowen was utterly shocked when one of our HEO's informed Babs that she (the HEO) received superior benefits as a COLLEGE ASSISTANT!!
What's wrong with our picture? Where did the money go? When I asked for an accounting of fund expenditures the subject suddenly changed. If anything, other unions, e.g. the PBA, COBA, SBA, Sanitation Workers should have serious problems. Why? The most obvious is the fact that they retire earlier than PSC members and draw from the funds for a much longer, non-contributing, period. So...where did the money go? Is there no transparency in the PSC?" [JJC]
"Thinking about this contract, another point occurred to me: the retroactive pay that we are giving to the WF is being given by active employees only. Yet the WF is running and continues to run deficits in both active and retiree accounts. Thus the actives are paying for retirees, just as the full-time faculty will continue to pay for the health benefits of the adjuncts!
The retirees cost the WF more than do actives, because of their greater use of prescription drugs, and the adjuncts cost about $12 million. So the bottom line: they are taking our retroactive pay to put into a reserve which will again be driven down over the next several years, since the increased additional money from the City is not enough to support the increased costs. And actives are supporting everyone else in two ways: it is OUR RETROACTIVE PAY that is funding benefits for EVERYONE. And money put into the fund by 80th Street and City Hall for ACTIVES will pay for EVERYONE'S continued benefits." [KCC]
On Barbara's Grab Bag of Contract Gains
"Sabbaticals at 80% pay? How many people can enjoy this? How often can they? It is meaningless to most of us. I would rather to get no pay but take a visiting position for a year at another institute if I get a sabbatical leave.
24 hours of reassigned time for future non-tenured faculty? This costs a lot of money; 24 hours teaching is almost one year's leave. Why not just give the newly hired member a one year vacation immediately after hiring? I bet the young PhDs will die to come to CUNY. But, why do we need to use our money to attract more people for CUNY? It is the management's job to hire people. CUNY can give zero release time and have a hard time getting people, but so what! It is not the union's business." [QCC]
"Pardon my ignorance, but how is a "three day change in the academic calendar" a "contract gain"? Rather than returning to work on August 30th, we can return as early as August 25th, calendar depending." [Lehman]
"The NC spins this as a no increase in work hours. However, the plain fact is that they have conceded to cut annual leave by three days WITHOUT A SALARY INCREASE. Annual leave is the only period during which we are technically off, so whether the college semester calendars change is totally irrelevant in terms of how much absolute time off we are entitled to. [I.E. you can be called in at any time that is NOT during the period of annual leave.] This represents a real decrease to that number. At least the teachers, firefighters, and police, etc. all got something for such 'productivity' enhancements. We didn't." [KCC]
On the Odd Couple's Collusion
"The trade off the contract represents seems to me to give the University what it wants with concessions borne by the full-time staff. In return the New Caucus gets what it wants--ostensible gains for new faculty and part-time faculty, the power base the NC needs to stay in office for the future. The section dealing with "gains" for adjuncts is over 1/4 of the agreement we were sent." [Brooklyn]
"There is a similar strange, possibly but not necessarily symbiotic, relationship between MTA management and the TWU "militant" leadership. The TWU engages in theatrical militancy, which looses but satisfies its militant base; the MTA offers raises below what the UFT, PBA, Sanitation workers etc. got. The union leadership won reelection based on its militancy, running not against its internal union opposition but against management; the MTA got lower raises, and a weakened union to deal with.
"In the case of our NC leaders, what their own internal committed members want most is aggressive theatrical anti-Bush militancy and a hand in shaping the PSC's own foreign policy, plus 80% sabbaticals. Both are more important to them than across-the-board raises. And CUNY management gets the precedent of the membership paying for the deficit at the Welfare Fund, fulfilling a basic objective of all management in the US to have labor pick up part of the tab for health care. Even if not intentional, each party gets something of value from the relationship." [Queens]
The Rumor Column
Just when you'd expect that the Dear Leader and her krazy kompanions might be enjoying the fruits of their victory over the CUNY Alliance, we hear that all is not well in the soon to be abandoned PSC headquarters. It seems that more than a few among the New Caucus' inner circle were stunned by the CA's 46% performance in the recent Executive Committee elections, and are contemplating a change in (dear) leadership. The long time rift between those committed to global politics and those concerned about a more pragmatic agenda appears to have widened of late. A few hearty, or foolhardy, souls are suggesting that Barbara step down in favor of "Solidarity" Steve, and that the union concentrate on the university, rather than on the universe.
Other stories are swirling around the New Caucus' new treasurer and man on the make, Michael Fabricant. "Mean Mr. Mike" is rumored to be none too pleased with the conduct of the krazy kontract kampaign, in particular with the person in charge, Mary Ann Carlese. We hear that the Big MAC, in turn, has been blaming the failure of the kampaign, in particular the abortive "job action," on poor work by the PR firms and organizers hired by the PSC. Rumor has it that "Mean Mr. Mike" wants the Big MAC to go bye-bye. What is stopping him, for now at least, is the Dear Leader's support for Mary Ann as Associate Executive Director. But stay tuned.
Here at The Patriot Returns , we'll continue to track this buzz as best as we can. To Barbara and the renewed union leadership we'll offer this sage advice: sic transit gloria mundi. And to the rest of our readers: sic semper tyrannis.
Sharad Karkhanis, Ph.D.