By MIKE LEE
At a news conference at the state capitol in Albany on Feb. 8, DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido, along with other union leaders and state legislators, called on the state Legislature to increase funding for the City University of New York.
“If you believe that higher education is a priority then you are going to have to fund it in the proper way,” said Garrido at the news conference. “We believe that is a priority for not only who we represent, but also for the people in our communities who otherwise have no other opportunities to advance themselves.”
In his proposed budget, Gov. Andrew Cuomo shifts nearly $500 million in CUNY funding from the state to the city. DC 37 wants those funds restored in the budget in part because the cost shifting would impose in a new financial burden of the city.
The union and other CUNY supporters also want to stop a $300 tuition increase. Students have faced tuition hikes for five years, and the Cuomo budget calls for increases to continue for an additional five years.
Speakers at the news conference also called upon legislators to approve a “maintenance of effort” bill, which would guarantee funding for mandatory annual cost increases of the state and city university systems and cover collective bargaining costs. CUNY employees represented by DC 37 have been working without a contract since 2010, and they have not received a raise since 2009.
In December, Gov. Cuomo vetoed an earlier maintenance of effort bill, which the Assembly and the Senate had passed unanimously.
“It was a disappointing veto,” said Assembly member Deborah Glick, chair of the Assembly’s committee on higher education.
Andy Pallotta, executive vice president of the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), said the money is there for contract settlements. “For year after year we were told, ‘we are broke, we have no money, you have to understand.’ This time around there is a five billion dollar surplus. This money–during this budget session–must be used to take care of this.”
Dr. Barbara Bowen, head of the Professional Staff Congress, which represents CUNY faculty and other professional workers, said. “This is a cause. What it really means is not killing CUNY and SUNY by the death of a thousand cuts. That is what the maintenance of effort is about.”
State Sen. Kenneth LaValle, who leads the Senate’s higher education committee, and Dr. Fred Kowal, president of the United University Professors (UUP), which represents State University of New York professors, also spoke at the press conference.
Later in the day, Garrido addressed the union’s concerns about CUNY at a legislative hearing.
To stand in support of CUNY workers and their fight for a fair contract, go to www.stopstarvingCUNY.org.