Vol. 46, No.2 April 03, 2009
FACULTY RESENTMENT OF BARBARA BOWEN IS ON THE RISE
Since 1992 The Patriot Returns has done its best to keep faculty and staff posted about the shenanigans and waste that have become so sadly characteristic of the City University. We've seen, heard and read about most anything academically and professionally imaginable. The Patriot receives many emails which include complaints about the administration and the union, updates, ideas and criticisms; we thank you all for the input and support. We strive to be a voice for the silent majority of CUNY staff and faculty, not simply an outlet for the opinions of our senior editor. On occasion, we come across statements made by frustrated faculty members so genuine and impassioned that we feel obliged to share them with you.
The following is one of those e-mails:
Of all the things that infuriate me about Barbara Bowen and her gang, the worst is how they can lie to your face without even blinking. How can they say that our salaries have kept up with or risen above the cost of living? This is a complete lie, unless you counting all the sandwiches eaten at union meetings all these years as part of your salary. The rate of inflation in NYC has oscillated around 4% throughout the time the New Caucus has been in charge of the union. Not one of the contracts negotiated in the last eight years has given us anything close to the rate of inflation in terms of salary increases. And let us remember that in some cases we had to give back the retroactive portion of that increase to keep alive the "financially healthy" Welfare Fund. They could argue that the salaries of the new hires have become slightly more competitive in the last few years, but this is a result of market forces, not the actions or strategies of the union.
The administrators around the university have reluctantly come to understand that the only way to attract talented scholars is to offer better remuneration. And it was the chairs of academic departments throughout CUNY that led the way in convincing management of this new economic reality, not the union. This modest improvement, however, only highlights the shameful inadequacy of the salaries of everyone hired before 2003 or thereabouts. These days you find new hires making as much or more than associates who have been around for ten years or longer. The union ignored this issue for a long time, and when they finally addressed it, their "solution" was completely inadequate, unimaginative and ineffectual. It is probably too late now to solve this problem (which results in serious issues of morale among the faculty), so the emphasis of future negotiations should be on significant salary increases for everyone. Of course, with the economy as it, the likelihood of any gains is quite remote, but if the New Caucus got us crap in times of plenty, can you imagine what the next contract they negotiate will look like?
Four years ago I said that a chimpanzee could have written a better contract than the one Bowen got us. After looking at her work of the last four years and looking at my paycheck every two weeks, I have changed my mind. I believe that even a lower primate (maybe a spider monkey or a marmoset) would do a better job negotiating on our behalf. It is not only their absolute and proven incompetence that makes the New Caucus undeserving of our vote of confidence, it is also their dishonesty and arrogance. How can they claim that we have the same contract as other city unions? First of all, you cannot compare the contract of people who have attained the highest level of education possible to those of individuals who perform tasks that, while important and dignified, do not require extensive training and education. But that is beside the point; the fact is that other city unions did get contracts that are better than ours in relative and absolute terms. Maybe Bowen and her apparatchiks only move in intellectual circles, but I know cops, firemen, teachers, MTA people and other city employees, and they all have gotten better contracts than I. I am also sure that a lot of them have nicer houses, drive better cars, and have nicer vacations than a lot of us.
I was reading one of the flyers mailed by the New Caucus and could not believe the load of crap that they were saying. For starters, our self-deluded Queen B... makes the ridiculous claim that she galvanized the movement that led to the passing of $700 billion stimulus package. Really, I am not making UP this story! She claims that her Chief Side Kick Steve London has gained new rights for the labor movement as head of a negotiating team that has made PSC CUNY the laughingstock of state unions, and that, Mike "The Purse" Fabricant, has done a "masterful" job as treasurer of a fund that is virtually bankrupt.
I don't know if the people from the CUNY ALLIANCE will bring us a better contract (especially with the economy as it is), but I am certain that Barbara Bowen and the New Caucus will not. Maybe four years from now I will be calling the CUNY ALLIANCE people a bunch of baboons (which is still above the level of intelligence of Bowen et al.), but as of now they seem to have a modest, focused and rational approach to our labor problems. I am willing to give them a chance. If anything, the CUNY ALLIANCE will provide a fresh start that will allow the union to develop a healthier relationship with management. I am definitely voting for them.
A Concerned Senior member of the CUNY Faculty
Some people have criticized Bowen and the New Caucus people for their political activism especially in reference to the conflict in the Middle East. Initially I agreed with those who oppose the union's involvement in controversial political issues; I thought it was useless and counterproductive. However, I have changed my mind. I believe that if the New Caucus wins this coming election, we should become actively engaged in international politics. And why stop at the Arab-Israeli problem? After reconciling Palestinians and Jews, the leadership of the union should be sent to the tribal areas in Pakistan to broker a peace deal with the Taliban. Steve London can try his topnotch negotiating skills to gain the surrender of Mullah Omar and we can use the skills of financial wizard Mike Fabricant to make the Taliban's opium trade unprofitable (if anyone can screw up a good thing it is him). If they are successful, we will have peace in that troubled and geopolitically vital region of the world; and if they fail, at least we keep them out of the next contract negotiations.
Either way we win.
Sharad Karkhanis, Ph.D.
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