Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is urging New York governor Andrew Cuomo to raise salaries for professors at the City University of New York, who have gone without a pay increase since 2010, despite the rising cost of simply existing in New York. In a letter to the governor, Sanders wrote that he is “troubled by New York State’s refusal so far to invest in a fair contract for the university’s faculty and staff.” Cuomo vetoed a bill last week that would have required the state to provide funding to cover predictable cost of living increases in the state.
Last year, dozens of CUNY faculty were arrested during a gathering to protest their low rates of pay and to demand a cost of living increase. Members of the protest were arrested for sitting down in front of a building in an act of civil disobedience, refusing to move until they were given an acceptable offer.
The New York Times alleges that because Sanders is himself from Brooklyn, he has a personal investment in CUNY and its salaries. A significant portion of his presidential campaign is to eradicate income inequality, so it makes sense that is investment in the plight of CUNY employees—and, thereby, the plight of all professors and instructors in the nation, who are notoriously overworked and underpaid.
Governor Cuomo’s office said that he had rejected the bill because the state would have had to pay an additional $600 million in spending, which the governor believed should not be done outside of the budget process. But Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress, a group that represents CUNY faculty, believes the bill should have moved forward.
“Cuomo’s decision to veto the bill will damage the quality of education CUNY can offer and reduce students’ access to the top-quality faculty and staff they deserve. If the aim of the veto was to hurt New York’s low- and middle-income communities, that aim has been achieved,” Bowen said.
Sanders agrees. “As a college degree becomes increasingly important for economic security in our vastly unequal society, CUNY has historically represented the possibility that a college education of the highest quality could be accessible to all,” he wrote. “It should continue to represent that possibility.”