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Vol. 52, No.2 May 18, 2010
BOWEN ON FURLOUGHS:
For the last decade, our union has been led by people whose goal in life seems to be to play-act as radical "activists," even if doing so alienates the political and media figures on whose support CUNY relies. Our Dear Leader, Barbara Bowen, won't speak to Republicans. The New Caucus' quixotic anti-Israel campaign has almost seemed crafted to offend powerful Senate Democrats, such as Jeff Klein and Carl Kruger. The only political party the Dear Leader welcomes—the Working Families Party—hasn't even elected one legislator on the party's own line.
When Wall Street was flying high and the state's tax revenues were healthy, other unions—DC-37 is the best example, but the UUP counts here, too—took advantage and received substantial raises. CUNY faculty got two tardily negotiated contracts with raises that failed to keep pace with inflation and required give-backs to the mismanaged Welfare Fund. The Dear Leader was more concerned with organizing her latest protest rally than in waging the hard work of negotiating.
And now that the state's tax coffers are struggling, and the state government has approved a furlough for all CUNY employees? The Dear Leader can't call on her allies in Albany—since she doesn't have any. So instead, she's turned to doing what she does best—organizing an ineffectual protest. "We need to send a strong, swift message to the governor," our Dear Leader e-mailed us, "that we will challenge his illegal and irrational attempt to balance the budget through furloughs of public employees." Brooklyn College's PSC branch even canceled its campus union meeting—to give concerned members specifics about the furlough problem—so the college's union leadership could attend Barbara's hastily organized rally.
Does anyone believe that Gov. Paterson, or Speaker Silver, or Sen. Sampson, or the state's Republican leadership is going to repeal the furlough because a handful of the Dear Leader's professional protesters show up in their "PSC Red" outside the governor's Manhattan office? And yet, as other states have turned to furloughs, giving the PSC months to strategize how CUNY faculty should respond, Barbara's only solution was. . . yet another meaningless protest.
(By the way, did anyone notice that the Dear Leader's e-mail went to great length to stress the dangers of a furlough during finals' week? "A 20 percent reduction in our workweek would mean that some exams are not administered, many exams and papers are not graded on time, grades are not processed to meet deadlines, some students fail to graduate, others lose their chance to register for summer courses, jeopardize their graduate school admission, finish the year with transcripts unfairly marred with Incompletes, or even compromise their immigration status." Was Barbara suggesting that a furlough during regular classes wouldn't be equally outrageous?)
In the end, the Dear Leader hopped onboard a lawsuit filed by other unions (which our megalomaniacal union head hilariously termed Bowen et al v. Paterson et al in an e-mail to CUNY faculty) that has obtained a temporary injunction. Even the New York Times has dismissed this as a viable response: as the Times editorialized Saturday, "If this drags on much longer, Governor Paterson will have no choice but to start laying off people. It is time for the unions to stop waving around lawsuits and start negotiating seriously."
NEW CAUCUS FOUNDING MEMBER:
DISSENTING ADJUNCTS ACT AS IF
The hardest-hit by the furloughs will be CUNY adjuncts. But tenured professor Bowen and her comrades already have made clear that the New Caucus' ideological purity will take precedence over the economic well-being of adjuncts.
The issue, as noted in our most recent number, involves PSC management's unprecedented decision not to grant any waivers to the adjunct 9/6 hours rule—an approach which basically takes money out of the pockets of adjuncts who want (or need) to teach more than 15 hours.
The PSC's grievance counselor at BMCC, Charles Post, explained the New Caucus' reasoning by making an "analogy between the use of cocaine and the desire of some part-time faculty" at a Delegate Assembly meeting, suggesting that adjuncts who need overloads were suffering from an addiction that harmed both them and their union colleagues. When his rhetoric understandably enraged some adjuncts, Post—who describes himself as a "founding member of the New Caucus"—offered a different analogy. He compared adjuncts who needed overloads to workers who would accept low-paying jobs knowing that doing so would result in "the probable growth of cancer among the towns' population—especially its children."
Cheerfully accepting the Dear Leader's demand, Post concluded, was the true way for adjuncts to bring about "real solidarity between part-time and full-time faculty."
Cocaine addicts and people who are indifferent to cancer clusters of children. That's what one "founding member of the New Caucus" really thinks about CUNY's adjuncts.
Sharad Karkhanis, Ph.D.