CUNY union protests outside chancellor’s apartment

cuny-union-protests-outside-chancellors-apartment
Professional Staff Congress president Barbara Bowen. (William Alatriste for the New York City Council)
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Hundreds of CUNY faculty and staff chanted, carried ringing alarm clocks, and generally made a lot of noise at an early-morning Thursday "wake-up call" protest outside university chancellor James B. Milliken's high-rise apartment building.

"We're going to make sure that every person in this building hears. That every neighbor calls up J.B. and says, 'Get those people a contract,'" Professional Staff Congress president Barbara Bowen said into a bullhorn, just before 8:30 a.m.

CUNY's faculty and staff have worked without a contract for six years, and without contractual raises for five. Settling a contract requires the agreement of not only the union and university, but the state, which funds the largest part of CUNY's budget, and the city, as well.

Milliken has repeatedly said the contract is his "highest priority," but that the state Legislature did not provide resources to fund a contract in this year's budget.

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"As a practical matter, we must have the support of the state and city for our contract and, as important, we cannot responsibly make an offer or enter into an agreement we cannot pay for," he has said.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has said the contract is "up to CUNY."

Thursday's crowd stretched seven deep along 68th Street for most of the block between Third and Second avenues. Union spokesman Fran Clark said that over 700 members showed up. (P.S.C. represents 27,000 employees. Members of District Council 37, which represents about 10,000 non-professional CUNY employees, were also present.)

Protesters, many wearing academic gowns, banged pots and pans, hit drums and cowbells, blew horns and vuvuzelas, and chanted, "We're here, we're CUNY, get used it!" Many posed for photos with a cardboard cut-out of Milliken.

"We're gotta give a good hour of waking up to chancellor Milliken, if you want him to feel what we feel. He's got to feel a little heat, he's got to feel a little pressure, and that's our job," Bowen said. "We're going to fight and fight and fight until we have a contract worthy of our work."

CUNY spokesman Mike Arena represented the university on site, and was accompanied by Emily Gest of the public relations firm Rubenstein.

"We understand the frustration," Arena said. "The contract issue is our highest priority. The chancellor has repeatedly made that clear to the university community. We're working very diligently to identify resources to help us settle as soon as possible."

The protest lasted from about 8 a.m. to just after 9 a.m.