Municipal Government, New York

Cuomo’s ‘Slap In the Face’

January 6, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco

PSC-CUNY staffers about to be arrested last fall.

PSC-CUNY staffers about to be arrested last fall.

New York, NY – Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “two-track” strategy to establish a $15 an hour minimum wage now includes roughly 30,000 SUNY workers — even if they’ll have to wait until 2021 to get there. But CUNY workers are feeling left out in the cold right now. 

The governor announced on Monday that efforts to establish an eventual $15 an hour minimum wage for workers in the state university system are part of his strategy of “chipping away — Vince Lombardi-style” at unlivable wages in the Empire State. 

However, Barbara Bowen, head of the Professional Staff Congress-CUNY, says that the chief exec in Albany continues to fail city-based higher education. 

“The decision to exclude CUNY from the wage increase is a slap in the face to the thousands of low-wage workers whose labor helps to make a college education possible for CUNY’s 500,000 students,” Bowen said in a statement. “It is part of a pattern of refusing to invest the necessary funds in CUNY: the governor continues to deny any state funding for pay increases for CUNY’s academic staff, who have not had a raise in five years. Cuomo’s continuing refusal to invest in decent pay for CUNY workers is hurting the whole University.Full-time faculty are beginning to seek other jobs, and there are part-time faculty on food stamps because their CUNY salaries are so low.”

Bowen talked about the ongoing plight of both students and teachers at CUNY schools throughout the city during a taping of the LaborPress Radio Show/Podcast in October.

Criticism is also coming from Upstate legislators who fear that a salary hike absent additional SUNY funding will result in higher tuition for students.

The Press & Sun-Bulletin reported Assemblyman Bill Nojay’s concerns. “It’s a very simple concept: If Cuomo increases the minimum wage at SUNY and CUNY schools while denying them state funding, that deficit will fall on the shoulders of our students in the form of tuition hikes,” Nojay said in a statement.

In November, PSC-CUNY staffers subjected themselves to mass arrest outside CUNY’s central offices in Midtown to protest the lack of adequate funding and substandard faculty salaries.

“No institution embodies the progressive, pro-worker, anti-poverty goals of the minimum wage more than CUNY,” Bowen continued. “No institution does more than CUNY to overcome the income inequality that the governor decries.”

During Monday’s launch of the new “Mario Cuomo Campaign for Economic Justice,” Governor Cuomo said that the state will build on the success of the Fight for $15 movement in the fast food industry.   

“We’re going to continue that track more and more,” the governor said. “Reaching out to other businesses, reaching out to other government officials, asking them to come on board. Asking Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James – bring the City of New York with us. Join this crusade.”

Thousands of CUNY workers earn less than $15 an hour. The system has lost almost 15 percent of its vital state funding since 2008. 

January 5, 2016

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