Union petitions Cuomo on CUNY funding

Union petitions Cuomo on CUNY funding
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Associated Press / David Goldman, File

District Council 37 (DC 37), the city’s largest municipal union, is circulating a petition urging New Yorkers to force Gov. Andrew Cuomo and State legislators to “properly fund” the City University of New York (CUNY).

“Please tell Gov. Cuomo and the state legislature, I stand with CUNY workers and urge you to acknowledge the sacrifice and commitment they have made to ensure a first-rate education for tens of thousands of New Yorkers. Fully fund CUNY,” the petition reads.

DC 37 noted that, each year, CUNY “provides a path to upward mobility for tens of thousands of New Yorkers from all backgrounds,” adding that “enrollment is up at CUNY, where its employees go to work every day to create a first-rate education environment.

“From maintenance workers and housekeepers to college assistants and clerical workers, the women and men are committed to opening the door to opportunity for students in a world-class institution,” said the union, stating that more than 10,000 CUNY workers that it represents have gone seven years without a raise.

“With frozen wages, the more than 7,000 workers who make less than $15 an hour struggle to make ends meet,” it continued. “Gov. Cuomo recently excluded these workers from a minimum wage increase he has proposed for state workers. And he has proposed a state budget that could slash support for CUNY by more than $500 million.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio has objected to the governor’s proposed cuts, openly expressing displeasure.

“There are two things in the budget that are not fair to New York City, that will be harmful to New York City, that will set us back, and will particularly set back our students at CUNY,” he said at a recent news conference.

Barbara Bowen, president of the faculty and staff union, said of CUNY’s finances, “It’s just a constant, constant austerity, even though we’re way past the recession.”

But Cuomo appeared to soften his tone, saying on NY1 that this was only the beginning of a budgetary discussion that would take months, according to the New York Times.

“At the end of the day, there will be no cut to CUNY,” Cuomo said. “I want to see more money at CUNY at the end of the day, and more money in the classroom.”

Cuomo spokeswoman Dani Lever said in a statement that the state wished to redirect savings from “bureaucratic costs” to academics, and that it needed the city’s cooperation to do so.

The governor’s plan for CUNY would fulfill two pragmatic objectives at once, according to the Times. Shifting one-third of the cost of CUNY support to the city, some $485 million, would help balance Cuomo’s budget.

It would also allow the state to put $240 million of that sum toward possible retroactive raises for university employees, said the Times said, adding that the Professional Staff Congress, which represents 25,000 CUNY faculty and staff members, has been demanding a new contract and salary increases, both of which it has done without for six years.

Since before the 2008 recession, the amount of per-student funding that CUNY receives from the state has declined 17 percent, adjusted for inflation, the Times noted.

At the same time, it said tuition has risen by $300 in each of the last five years as a result of legislation backed by the governor that combined tuition increases with greater financial aid. Cuomo’s proposed budget would extend that legislation another five years, the Times said.

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