Holiday cheer in Elmhurst 1

The celebration, hosted by City Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), left, and state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing), right.

About 100 faculty, staff and students rallied in front of LaGuardia Community College Wednesday to demand a better faculty and staff contract than the City University of New York has offered so far.

“Happy birthday, governor! Fund CUNY now,” the participants chanted.

The chant referred to the Professional Staff Congress’s Wednesday morning announcement that it would protest that night outside a Manhattan birthday party fundraiser for Gov. Cuomo.

“We’ve had tough negotiations for a year and a half,” PSC and Bronx Community College faculty member Sharon Persinger told the Chronicle. The union represents more than 25,000 CUNY and CUNY Research Foundation faculty and staff.

“Tuition at LaGuardia has increased $1,500 over the last five years, all while the college’s 2,500 faculty and staff have been working under expired union contracts, without a raise,” the organizers said in a press release. The rally was led by Sigmund Shen, associate professor of English at LaGuardia and chairman of LaGuardia’s PSC chapter. Local 384 of District Council 37, the city’s largest municipal employee union, also participated.

PSC members have been without a raise for six years and without a contract for five. Persinger said the union held a “disruptive action” including civil disobedience at the Chancellor’s Office on November 4, with more than 50 PSC members arrested that day.

That day, CUNY offered a retroactive 0 percent raise covering 2010 through 2013, 1 percent for 2014, 1 percent in 2015, 1 percent in April 2015 and 3 percent in October 2015, Persinger said. But the union wants more, especially for 2010.

The PSC wants its contract to conform to the city’s “patterned bargaining” practice of offering similar unions similar raises and to give the PSC a 4 percent retroactive 2010 raise, matching the United Federation of Teachers’ and Civil Service Employees Union’s raises. The PSC wants a total 14 percent hike for 2010 - 2016.

LaGuardia Community College said in a written statement that it “stands solidly with the PSC’s desire to have a fair and swift resolution to the contract negotiations.” But it also noted that the CUNY Board of Trustees has voted for no community college tuition increase next year and that the state’s new budget calls for a continued four-year college “predictable tuition policy” of $150-per-semester increases. LaGuardia also said noted that CUNY wants $250 in additional financial aid per full-time student from the state and that the chancellor has proposed a community college graduates scholarship program.

“As Chancellor [James] Milliken has said from the very beginning of his tenure, the greatness of our faculty and staff is among our University’s most critical assets. He should be commended of his significant efforts to secure the necessary funding to allow the University to strike an agreement,” LaGuardia said.

The chancellor’s salary has risen by 49 percent since 2009, a PSC spokeswoman said. Milliken has been chancellor since 2014. In that time, CUNY community college tuition has risen 43 percent, CUNY four-year college tuition has risen 31 percent, and CUNY faculty and staff top and starting salaries have risen 0 percent, she said.

Faculty, students, staff and alums attending the rally said they are also concerned about long-term funding of public universities. A CUNY education used to be free before the mid-1970s fiscal crisis hit the city.

Raymundo Valentin, who attended the rally with colleagues from the student group the Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee, said the RSCC wants students and faculty to unite behind an anti-tuition movement.

“It was free throughout the Great Depression, the First World War, the Second World War,” Valentin said.

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