Union gears up for CUNY rally on Thursday

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City University of New York activists gather at a training session at union headquarters on March 5. The DC 37 members are encouraging their coworkers to take part in a March 10 demonstration for a fair contract and decent funding at CUNY. DC 37 held the training as part of  its long-term plan to build up a strong network of union activists on CUNY campuses. Photo by Gregory N. Heires.

By GREGORY N. HEIRES

The union is mobilizing for a rally on Thursday to support the contract fight of workers at the City University of New York, where 10,000 DC 37 members have gone without a raise for seven years.

On Thursday, demonstrators will also be protesting a proposed $485 million cut in state assistance to CUNY under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget. Please click here to RSVP for the rally.

Protesters will gather at 5 p.m. outside the governor’s Manhattan office at 633 Third Ave. (between 40th and 41st streets). After the rally, demonstrators will march from the governor’s office to the nearby Community Church of New York (40 East 35th St.), where they will discuss the CUNY crisis and future action.

On Sunday, March 6 in a show of solidarity, a group of members of Queens Library Guild Local 1321 handed out flyers about the demonstration and “Stop Starving CUNY” buttons as they marched in the St. Pat’s for All Parade in Queens.

“I passed out flyers at the parade and the people were very receptive and nice,” said Library Manager Kacper Jarecki, who is a Local 1321 union delegate. He said he has a special concern for the CUNY workers because he studied for his undergraduate degree at Brooklyn College, earned his master’s degree in library science at Queens College and used to work part-time at Medgar Evans College, which are all CUNY institutions.

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Members of Queens Library Guild Local 1321 support the contract fight of their fellow DC 37 members employed at CUNY as they march in the St. Pat’s for All Parade in Queens on March 6. Photo by Molly Charboneau.

On Saturday, about 20 CUNY workers gathered at union headquarters in Manhattan for a training session of DC 37’s plan to establish a network of activists at the public university system.

DC 37 is setting up Member Action Teams at 25 campuses as it aims to represent members better and to build up union power in the workplace. The training focused on the immediate task of turning out members for the rally on on Thursday and the union’s long-term goal of encouraging members to get more involved.

“I am tired of living paycheck to paycheck,” said Roxana Galindez, a Custodian Assistant at Queens College, during the training.

“It’s important for workers to get involved,” said Yolanda Cortijo, who is also a Custodian Assistant at Queens College. “New people have new ideas,” she said, suggesting that the union will become more vibrant if a greater number of members become active.

The governor wants to shift the responsibility for the $485 million in CUNY funding from the state to the city. If approved, the cut would mark an abandonment of the state’s decades-long commitment to help fund the public higher education system in New York City, which over decades has provided a pathway to the middle class for millions of poor and minority students.

The CUNY cut comes along with another proposed deep reduction–$476 million–in state assistance to NYC Health + Hospitals under the executive budget, which also would force the city to pick up that funding or risk starving the financial troubled health-care system, which already faces a $500 million deficit. All told, both cuts would impose an additional a new $1 billion annual spending obligation on the city.

In its analysis of the executive budget, the Albany-based Fiscal Policy Institute describes the education and health-care cuts as “perhaps the biggest bombshell” in the state spending plan. “This is a pernicious, unilateral shift in fiscal responsibility to a local government, essentially punishing the city for its economic and fiscal success,” FPI says.

DC 37 has gathered 2,000 signatures for an online petition that calls for the state to fund CUNY properly. Please click here to sign the online petition.

 

 

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