Up-to-date announcements and updates. Miss an email? We'll summarize the main points here!
PUFF SLATE WINS LEADERSHIP ELECTION
Results of the 2023 union leadership election are in! Overwhelmingly, you chose the Pratt United Faculty Front slate to lead our union into this next chapter. Congratulations Darini Nicholas, Elæ Moss, Velina Manolova, and Jennifer Miller.
MOU : VOTE YOUR CONSCIENCE
Notes on the MOU from Elected Leadership and Organizers
The newly elected leadership did not negotiate this contract nor is it the contract we would have fought for. We will offer to provide as much information as possible about the MOU, the possible outcomes of both a NO and YES vote, and the organizing work that lies ahead. We do not feel that this MOU is a good deal, especially given the moment we are in. But it has put membership in a precarious position. There are low rewards for voting YES and sizable risks for voting NO. See our review of the strengths and weaknesses of the MOU here. We encourage you to vote in a way that speaks to your experience and working conditions. Most strongly, we encourage you to help us build a powerful majority union so that we can work towards achieving a contract for which we’re proud to vote YES.
BUILDING A NEW UNION
It is important to recognize why we are in such a difficult position with this MOU. Our union has been hollowed out for years, during which time a small percentage of the teaching faculty disproportionately benefited. This minority union was bargaining with Proskauer, one of the top union busting firms in the country. We have been kept weak by making it difficult for the membership to grow: from long, paper forms that often go missing, to discouraging joining, to the outright blockage of new member participation. Click to read more.
Dues and agency fees have been mismanaged and underutilized. Dues are vital to compensating the organizational work necessary to build a large, informed, and organized membership. There has been little financial transparency, including around how the last equalization fund from the 2016 contract was distributed to faculty, past budgets, and leadership compensation. We have been documenting this mismanagement and the manner in which outgoing president Carbone unilaterally interpreted our Bylaws around voting eligibility to prevent new members from voting. The current organization structure invests too much power in a single role, which is a recipe for corruption. As we assume the leadership roles, we will continue to lead with transparency.
TIMELINE & WHO GETS TO VOTE
The voting timeline for ratifying the MOU is within the purview of the Elections Committee (as per our Bylaws. The sitting president does not have this power). The Election Committee has between now and mid-June to hold a vote. Rather than rushing this decision, we propose to hold town halls on various areas related to the MOU, educate ourselves as a voting body, and increase our membership.
All union members have the right to attend meetings about the MOU and vote on the MOU. The current leadership is keeping newer members out of information sessions and has claimed they will be ineligible to vote on the MOU. We are focused on ensuring open pathways to membership and expanding voter access on the MOU.
Regardless of how membership votes on the MOU, becoming a majority union is a top priority for incoming leadership. Our strength in any future contract negotiations will be dependent on increasing our membership. In Summer 2022, Union membership was around 310 (out of approximately 1000+ faculty in the bargaining unit). Through organizing efforts, we are now at 410 and growing. Engagement is also rising sharply. 186 members voted in the last leadership election in 2014. In our February 2023 election, 303 members cast votes. We’ve made great gains, but have a long way to go. This is a massive undertaking and necessitates all of us working together.
If you would like to help enroll new members or if you’ve been excluded from joining, participating, or voting in union matters, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF WE VOTE NO
What if we vote NO on the proposed MOU?
The following has been compiled from conversations with union organizers at Rutgers, NYU, CUNY, and Fordham, historical research, and conversations with you.
The best outcome of voting no would be a three-year contract with larger annual raises closer to matching inflation that keeps some of the better elements of the MOU: an equity fund for long serving, underpaid faculty, 75% contribution to adjunct health care, retroactive pay, expanded parental leave, and increases in salary following promotion. We would try to build toward some compensation for part-timers for the work they do outside of the classroom, even if small at first, and challenge the more odious parts of the contract including the vague, uncompensated service requirement for adjuncts and the language that seems to give more power to administrators. If we voted NO, we would immediately survey the membership to identify any specific needs or issues that we might address in the short run. The goal of this contract would not be transformation but an attempt to provide some economic relief to our lower paid members and set us up to fight for a transformational contract in 2025. By moving quickly to the next contract, it is more likely that the current pro-union political climate would help us achieve better results. Click to read more.
CAN WE LEGALLY VOTE NO?
Yes. There is no “reasonable” standard in the law (e.g., rejecting a 4% raise is “unreasonable”). Rejecting an MOU that the bargaining team negotiated is not considered bad-faith bargaining.
WOULD PRATT RETURN TO THE BARGAINING TABLE?
Pratt would most likely return to the bargaining table. The NLRB sets standards for fair labor practices. If an MOU is voted down and Pratt refuses to return to bargaining, it would be a PR nightmare for Pratt, and there would be a case against Pratt for violating fair labor practices. However, involving the NLRB is a slow process. Proskauser would probably encourage Pratt to drag bargaining out to demoralize and divide our membership. We would engage in a very public and escalating campaign to pressure Pratt back to the table.
WHAT ARE THE DOWN-SIDES OF GOING BACK TO BARGAINING RIGHT AWAY?
We do not know how Pratt would respond. They would likely ask for more concessions. Before agreeing to any concessions, we would bring them to the membership. Either way, we would first need to vote down the MOU, then engage in a condensed organizing and bargaining campaign around negotiating the shorter-term contract. Pratt might prefer this than a protracted struggle that starts bargaining from scratch, but we cannot know this.
Ideally, when voting down an MOU, the membership is already strike-ready. Our union has a lot of work to do before it is strike-ready. The results of a NO vote are unpredictable. If we were to go back to bargaining right away, the final contract may not be that different. For part-timers, it would likely not achieve a bottom-line living wage salary. For visitors, it would not deal with the unfairness of the visiting category itself and the PRCs ability to hinder access to healthcare and job security. The most likely change for the better would be an increase in the size of the raises—although this is not a given. Money is the easiest thing for management to agree to. It would also allow us to immediately pivot toward fighting for a more transformational contract. Changing the structure of work at Pratt would involve mass mobilization of membership.
Immediately re-engaging in bargaining might be a way to mobilize members and build faith in our new Executive Committee, who are willing to stand up for our shared principles. On the other hand, new leaders will have less time to build membership’s trust. In the uncertainty of a voted down MOU, a divided membership would weaken the herculean organizing efforts necessary to bargain for a stronger MOU.
IF WE VOTE YES
What if we vote YES on the proposed MOU?
The following has been compiled from conversations with union organizers at Rutgers, NYU, CUNY, and Fordham, historical research, and conversations with you.
HOW DO WE ACHIEVE A MUCH STRONGER CONTRACT?
To get a considerably better contract, we could ratify the current MOU and spend the term of this current contract mass mobilizing and becoming strike-ready. One can argue that the four remaining years of the contract is how long it will take to rebuild and inform our union, welcome hundreds of new members, research Pratt’s financial situation, prepare our demands, stage public actions, and develop our bargaining committee.
In organizing, making the administration nervous is important. If the union were to advocate for a transformational contract, it should do so publicly. There is no substitute for a strike authorization vote; however, lobbying, letter writing, demonstrations, and petitions to pressure administration for better contracts have also yielded results. Click to read more.
HOW DO WE BECOME STRIKE-READY?
We need hundreds more members and we need staff. This work cannot be done by volunteers perpetually. The only way to raise the money for staff is to expand the membership and to make sure Pratt collects union dues and agency fees. Our goal must be to invite all 1000+ persons in the bargaining unit to enroll. We must develop a shared mission. Without this, the administration will immediately know that any threats of strike are weak. Building up to negotiations, the administration needs to already know how serious the membership is.
WILL WE MISS THE MOMENT?
If we ratify this MOU, we risk missing this pro-union moment of national awareness and sea change. No one knows what the financial situation of Pratt or the nation will look like in four years. The current political climate is such that NY faculty unions have achieved huge gains, politicians come out for those on strike, and AOC shows up to rallies. We may not have this support in 2027.
WHO WILL LOSE THE MOST?
It is important to acknowledge the disheartening effects this ratification of the MOU will have on visitors. Many of them will likely not be here in four years either because they cannot afford to continue to teach or because they will not be rehired. Asking them to “wait” four years is unacceptable. At the same time, the union needs to adopt an entirely new way of functioning, rebuild itself, and regain the trust of the membership.
HOW CAN WE IMPROVE CONDITIONS IN THE MEANTIME?
There are non-contract activities that can happen in the interim. We can develop transparent standards for the equity fund and see whether its limits as Carbone described are negotiable. We can use the grievance process more aggressively to pursue cases where promotions are denied. We can also build up to reworking the Bylaws as part of an anti-corruption campaign. Currently, our Bylaws lack specificity. Reworking them to become more concrete will help shield us from unchecked power. Additionally, we can work towards pay transparency, within the union, among faculty, and across the administration, as a way to address pay equity.
Whatever Members Choose: It’s All Hands On Deck. Time to Organize.
Click to view initial thoughts on organizing timelines for YES & NO votes on the MOU.
YES VOTE ON THE MOU
If members ratify the MOU, we will not be able to meaningfully address pay inequities or healthcare shortcomings until 2027.
Working groups for membership & outreach, financial analysis, revision of Bylaws, documentation of problematic PCR behavior, etc.
Delegates Assembly as a hub for developing union culture within departments.
Shop Floor Activism: Workers organized within their departments promote job security and better working conditions, even when contractual language is weak.
Working groups expand to include needs and priorities for bargaining
Cultivate relationships with the press and other union leaders. Emphasis on difficult conditions faced by contingent faculty.
Protecting Members: If the provost uses new contractual powers to threaten a faculty’s job, we all push back. Admin should expect negative press from weaponizing the MOU language. Use the grievance process to check administrative overreach.
Righting Pay Inequities: A few cases of pay inequity at Pratt are illegal. We can insist Pratt increase those faculty wages extra-contractually.
Start pressuring Pratt to get back to the table, assemble a large bargaining committee, and demand open negotiations. We will not let our contract expire. That was a bad habit.
Spring 2026 - Leadership Elections
Regular rallies and informational pickets with high attendance to put Pratt’s reputation under pressure. Poll membership about a strike. Mobilize students in our fight.
Sept. 1, 2027 - Achieve gains in pay equity including: living wage for part time faculty, retirement, health care for all after two years, admin pay, salary steps, etc.
NO VOTE ON THE MOU
If members reject the MOU, organizing will be high stakes and demanding.
Engage 20-50 faculty as organizers to recruit 200 new members by the fall.
Hold town halls so that we have a new set of proposals by Sept 1. Determine if the goal is a transformational contract or a short term contract, the latter allowing us to speed up the timetable.
Hire a part-time staffer if we have enough dues money. Recruit another 200 members. Regular rallies and informational pickets with high attendance to put Pratt’s reputation under pressure. If Pratt delays, we consider escalating our work actions.
Work with a local lawyer who works primarily on private university labor.
Develop a large bargaining committee and insist that any member must be able to observe negotiations.
Use our new supermajority status and public pressure to get Pratt back to the bargaining table, with pressure to bargain daily.
Thanksgiving 2023 - Poll membership about a strike.
Strike vote authorization by late February planning for an April 1 strike.
Goal: contract achieved by one year from now, with backpay.
If we fall short, past experience of other unions shows us that any gains will be modest and disappointing. If we keep to this herculean organizing timeline, we’ll be looking at a much better deal. The stakes are high.
VOTING RIGHTS VICTORY
A win for Union democracy! New members received ballots through March 1st.
PUFF was deeply heartened to learn that on Saturday February 18th, the UFCT local 1460 Elections Committee voted (3-2) to allow new union members with in-process paperwork to be sent ballots. This decision was in response to a Protest filed by the PUFF Slate, alleging that current executive leadership was not processing new member paperwork in a timely manner, and was often denying new members their constitutional right to vote in the current election.
Click to continue reading.
The PUFF Protest was buoyed by at least seven Protests filed by individual faculty members who were denied a ballot. These seven Protests represent only a fraction of the number of faculty who have submitted membership paperwork and are awaiting the ability to participate in their union. President Carbone’s shifting and arbitrary rationale for not extending voting rights to new members is undemocratic, in violation of federal labor law and appears to serve his own candidacy.
On Sunday February 19th, despite the fact that our bylaws clearly do not grant the President this ability, President Carbone announced he would dismiss the Elections Committee members who voted in favor of this decision. This action is a further abuse of his power, and infringes on the rights of the Delegates Assembly to oversee Election Committee membership clearly stated in our bylaws.
We ask you to consider if this flagrant disregard for our constitutional processes is the kind of behavior you want in a union leader?
Furthermore, consider the myriad of barriers President Carbone has created for new members to join and participate in their union: discouraging visiting faculty from enrolling, failing to institute a digital membership process, not stocking NYSUT membership forms at the union office, refusing to process emailed membership forms, and arbitrary and unconstitutional deadlines and criteria for new members to receive a ballot. These actions demonstrate a clear disinterest in growing union membership. This hurts all of us.
If we remain a minority union, we do not have the leverage to negotiate a strong contract. Look at recent contracts won at NYU, Fordham, Barnard, New School, Rutgers, the UCs— all fully leveraged their labor power in order to achieve their goals. By depressing membership and part-time faculty participation in particular, President Carbone impoverishes us all.
And finally, we ask if the incendiary and taunting tone of President Carbone’s campaign emails is befitting of the union leadership we deserve? We are living in a historic moment for labor in higher ed. This is a time to build community, knowledge, true solidarity and to stand together to win the contract we deserve.