By Newfield, Marcia
Academe , Vol. 94, No. 6
The Professional Staff Congress (PSC), tiie union for twentytwo thousand faculty and staff members at the City University of New York, has been successful at gaining New York State aid for tuition remission for doctoral students and health insurance for graduate student employees, increasing budget allotments to CUNY, and obtaining transit checks, which allow all faculty and staff to pay for public-transportation cards with pretax money.
Since spring 2001, the PSC has been lobbying the New York State legislature for unemployment and short-term disability insurance for adjuncts and for higher budget allocations for CUNY that include conversion lines for adjuncts. The union has a legislative committee, which four times a year sends between twelve and twenty members to Albany to lobby legislators of both parties on the higher education and labor committees. We go there bear- ing brochures, statistics, and talking points. In addition, members and officers testify numerous times each year at various hearings of the health, labor, and higher education committees and meet with leading legislators. We have also established a tradition of hosting a yearly higher education breakfast at which we honor legislators who have helped promote our bills and issues. An "Act Now" feature on our Web site (www.psc-cuny.org) allows members to send instant faxes or e-mail messages to legislators and our chancellor.
Securing access to unemployment insurance for adjuncts has been a recent focus of our lobbying efforts. The PSC is affiliated with the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in addition to the AAUP. Beginning in 2003, the PSC initiated resolutions, which were passed by the NYSUT Representative Assembly, in favor of amending New York State labor law to enable adjuncts to receive unemployment insurance when their courses are not guaranteed. Currently, CUNY, a self-insurer, sends letters to adjuncts stating that part-time appointments are contingent on funding and curricular needs. Yet these same letters are deemed "reasonable assurance" of future employment and used to disqualify part-time faculty from receiving unemployment benefits. …