The following is a speech by CUNY Contingents Unite and Class Struggle Education Workers activist Portia Seddon at the November 19 mass meeting of the Professional Staff Congress (CUNY faculty/staff union). The meeting was held at Cooper Union, whose Great Hall was packed with what the union estimates at 900 people.
While the meeting was carefully stage-managed by the union bureaucracy, there was loud and genuine enthusiasm from the audience for the strike authorization vote that the PSC leadership has announced will be held in the spring.
CUNY Contingents Unite activists distributed a special issue of the CCU newsletter, The Advance (see below), to the entire audience. The discussion period was a scant 30 minutes, with an farcical 1-minute limit per speaker, very strictly enforced. The CCU had two speakers from the floor, the first of whom called not only for a massive “yes” vote on strike authorization but actually preparing a strike, and mobilizing the power of the NYC labor movement, together with large numbers of students, to rip up the Taylor Law (which declares job actions by public employees in new York State to be “illegal”). He made a motion (blithely ignored by the chair) that a strike preparation committee be elected then and there.
The second CCU speaker highlighted the stakes for adjuncts, and the call for “a real strike.” We need to “organize to actually go on strike,” she emphasized, “and we’re not going to be able to do that without organizing adjuncts…the basis of CUNY labor.” Denouncing the fact that the last contract “deepened the inequalities between ‘full-timers’ and adjuncts,” she emphasized our demands for an end to adjunct poverty, for real job security and health insurance for all. Her call to smash the Taylor Law, and to “win a contract that doesn’t sell out adjuncts,” was met with widespread cheers and enthusiastic applause.