Amid CUNY Crisis, Activists Fight to Make Union Stronger

by Gregory N. Heires and Mike Lee  |  February 26, 2016

Amid CUNY Crisis, Activists Fight to Make Union Stronger CUNY workers rally for a fair contract during a Labor Day parade in 2015. Photo credit: Clarence Elle-Rivera.

NEW YORK CITY - One hundred union activists traveled to Albany in February to attend the Black and Puerto Rican Legislative Conference, where they raised the alarm about the funding crisis at the City University of New York (CUNY).

The activists also are helping their union get AFSCME Strong by having one-on-one conversations with their sisters and brothers. Their goal is to help re-sign all DC 37 members and enroll agency fee payers though worksite and house visits, online recruitment, phone banks and other online tools.

Since the start of its AFSCME Strong campaign, DC 37 has conducted five worksite meetings, and 271 workers have signed membership cards. Before April 15, 13 more worksite meetings are scheduled at CUNY campuses. And more than 2,000 people have signed a petition calling for a fair CUNY contract.

The DC 37 contingent called upon legislators to restore funding at CUNY, which faces a $485 million cut under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed state budget. The spending plans calls upon the city to pick up the funding.

Ten thousand DC 37 members work at CUNY. The workers have gone without a raise for seven years, and contract talks are moving at a snail’s pace as the CUNY administration has failed to make a serious offer.

DC 37 members gathered signatures from participants at the caucus for a petition that the union will present to the governor. The petition calls for an end to the financial starving of CUNY and a contract settlement.

The lobbying weekend in Albany occurred a few days after another DC 37 contingent visited the state capital to push for CUNY funding and to pressure the governor to act on the contract for the workers at the city’s public colleges and universities.

“It went exceptionally well,” DC 37 Legislative Director Wanda Williams said about the lobbying effort. “We had 53 members and staff participating, and we all worked very hard to make contact with our state representatives to make our voices heard.”

DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido testified at a joint legislative hearing on higher education regarding the CUNY budget proposals. His written testimony is here.

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