Is Your Pension Secure? Find Out at City Tech Chapter’s Pension Workshop

Come have some pizza and learn if you’re being affected by CUNY’s failure to properly deduct and contribute to your pension. Employees are facing extensive problems with their pensions CUNY-wide, and the PSC has filed a lawsuit.  

This workshop is for everyone (not just those near retirement age), PT and FT, HEOs and CLTs, those with TRS and TIAA. Former chapter chair and pension committee member Bob Cermele and, Greg Douros, from PSC Contract Enforcement, will be there to explain the issues and answer your questions. Spread the word to others who might need this knowledge. If possible, bring copies of your pay statements to check for potential issues. 

City Tech Chapter 5/9 with Guest Speaker James Davis, PSC President

What are the make-or-break issues for you in the contract?
Pay Stagnation? Adjunct Job Security? Health and Safety on Campus? Lack of Basic Resources? HEO shortages? Attacks on shared governance?

ACTION: Meet CUNY’s Board of Trustees on 4/1 at City Tech

This is NO JOKE! CUNY’s Board of Trustees will hold their #Brooklyn #Hearing at #CityTech on April Fool’s Day. Hearing begins at 4:30 pm in the Academic Complex Theater. Join the #Rally before hand at 3:30 pm and Demand a #Contract!

Poster announcing CUNY Board of Trustees Hearing on Monday 4/1 at City Tech

TODAY! Spring ’24 Mass Online Meeting 3/6 at 6:30 pm

Contract for #APeoplesCUNY

Wednesday, March 6, 6:30PM

RSVP for the Zoom Meeting

We need every PSC member at this mass online demonstration of solidarity and support for a strong new contract! Please RSVP here for the Zoom and log on to hear the latest from the PSC Bargaining Team after a dozen bargaining sessions with CUNY management and a year without a contract. Ask questions. Learn what you can do in Spring ‘24 to escalate the campaign to win a Contract for #APeoplesCUNY.

Cafeteria Woes at CUNY-If We Want Students Back on Campus, We Need to Provide Food, Not Vending Machines

CUNY Community Colleges in The Bronx Left Without Cafeteria Service

Only vending machines have offered food at two campuses since late September.

By Jonathan Custodio
Mar 4 5:00am EST

A Farmer’s Fridge offers salads and pasta bowls as an alternative to the closed cafeteria at Bronx Community College.

The CITY partners with Open Campus on coverage of the City University of New York.

At Bronx Community College, hungry students can find food only in vending machines since contractor A La Carte Menu Services Inc. abruptly ended on-campus dining service last year.  

While the school has since added a Farmer’s Fridge machine — whose options include $2.99 hardboiled eggs and $5.49 chocolate chia seed pudding — students seeking heartier or healthier fare have to go off campus to find it. Otherwise, they can settle for vending machines stocked with chips, candy and microwavable egg-and-cheese sandwiches and White Castle sliders. 

Containers of pasta salad sat in a Bronx Community College vending machine.
A Farmer’s Fridge offers salads and pasta bowls as an alternative to the closed cafeteria at Bronx Community College, Feb. 15 2024.


“It’s expensive. It’s wild. It won’t last you long,” 21-year-old film student Alex Ortiz said of the on-campus options since BCC’s cafeteria in the Roscoe Brown Student Center stopped serving food on September 29. 

That was just after the semester began and days after school administrators informed staff via email that, “A La Carte Menu Services, Inc. has withdrawn their cafeteria and catering services citing a lack of volume in sales.” 

The company, the email said, “informed our administration yesterday that they ‘can no longer operate at such a huge deficit.’”

A La Carte Menu Services, which did not respond to a request for comment, had been less than one year into a five-year contract to provide food services at BCC and Hostos, where it closed the cafeteria it opened last spring on a campus that had gone without one since the beginning of the pandemic, THE CITY previously reported. There are 6,839 students enrolled at BCC and 5,376 enrolled at Hostos, with many attending part time while juggling studies with jobs and caretaking. 

CUNY administrators ignored a request to provide a copy of that contract and did not say if the company would pay any penalty for its early withdrawal.  

“CUNY colleges continue to identify new dining partners, from full-service dining to grab and go stations, to provide students with a variety of food choices,” CUNY spokesperson Noah Gardy told THE CITY in a written statement. “And since CUNY is mostly a commuter system, students often have access to a variety of off-campus dining options.”

Gardy added that the “community colleges have introduced ready-to-eat meal options while the campuses develop an RFP for dining services,” with that request for proposal being released this spring. 

Still, having a range of food options on campuses matters. 

A 2022 survey by Healthy CUNY and the CUNY Office of Applied Research, Evaluation and Analytics found about 111,000 CUNY students experienced food insecurity. That’s two out of every five CUNY students, up from one in five in a 2018 survey, which found that students’ lack of convenient access to meals can contribute to food insecurity, a major inhibitor of college success.  

“If you are hungry, you’re not going to concentrate. There’s no way,” Hostos academic advisor Alba Lynch told THE CITY, adding that on-campus dining options should also include affordable and healthy food options. “It goes hand in hand. If your stomach is empty, how are you going to think about anything else other than food?”

The Bronx Community College cafeteria shuttered had been closed since the start of the fall semester.
The Bronx Community College cafeteria shuttered had been closed since the start of the fall semester, Feb. 15, 2024.

CUNY offers students access to 20 food pantries across the university system, including at BCC and Hostos. A food pantry offers free access to a collection of grocery items that can include rice, pasta and canned goods. On CUNY campuses, students can make appointments to pick up items or visit during select hours. 

In November 2022, Hostos Community College students demanded administrators reopen their cafeteria after it shuttered once the pandemic struck in the spring of 2020. Last year, Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson allocated $1.5 million to renovate Hostos’ cafeteria. 

Esther Rodriguez-Chardavoyne, senior vice president of administration and finance at Hostos, told The Bronx Times in July that only a few of the kitchen appliances were fully functional and that upgrades for the flooring and equipment in the cafeteria were required. 

Gardy told THE CITY that all the appliances at Hostos had been fixed. 

Though a city official told THE CITY that a certificate to proceed on renovation work at Hostos was issued January 26, college spokesperson Ivano Leoncavallo said “Hostos has not begun work on renovations.”

“There are many steps subsequent to the issuance of a CP [certificate to proceed] that need to happen before any work can be done,” Leoncavallo said in response. “That process is underway, and we are more eager for the project to begin than anybody.”

“In the meantime, we have installed Farmer’s Fridge vending machines that are restocked several times a week with fresh salads and sandwiches and other healthful food options while we proceed with the procurement of a new cafeteria vendor with our partner schools.”

At BCC, students are trying to make due without on-campus dining. 

Paula Safadi, a 19-year-old BCC biology student, said she is on campus four times a week, and usually tries to eat at home or pack meals. 

“But sometimes you don’t have time; you just want something quick,” she told THE CITY last week at Meister Hall, as she munched on a McChicken sandwich, nuggets and fries from a McDonald’s half a mile away.

Staffers were blindsided by A La Carte’s departure. 

“We don’t know really what happened. One day, the vendors just left, and they didn’t say anything. Basically, they were not making any profit,” Lynch said. “We were like, ‘what happened?’ So boom, the cafeteria is closed.”

THE CITY is a nonprofit newsroom that serves the people of New York. Sign up for our SCOOP newsletter and get exclusive stories, helpful tips, a guide to low-cost events, and everything you need to know to be a well-informed New Yorker.

2/29 February Chapter Meeting-Our Contract has Expired, What Now?

This month marks the 1 Year Anniversary of our contract. Come find out what’s happening at the bargaining table. Help leaflet before and after the Chapter Meeting. Can’t make it in person? Join the meeting via Zoom. Spread the word!

Latest News on NYC’s Union Contracts

City Workers Losing Patience With Slow Crawl to Union Contracts

In the second year of the Adams administration, public employees are asking when raises might be coming — but a bitter and costly fight over retiree health care isn’t over.

By Claudia Irizarry Aponte

Jan 27 12:05am EST

Most city employees are now working under expired labor contracts that lapsed as far back as 2020 — frustrating rank-and-file union members whose anticipated pay raises are tied up in an escalating battle over proposed changes to retired colleagues’ health coverage. 

Nearly all of the city’s roughly 300,000 unionized staff are working under expired collective bargaining agreements. They include members of the city’s largest public sector unions, District Council 37 (DC37) and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). Administrative workers, school crossing guards, teachers, police detectives, sanitation workers and health technicians are among those eager to bargain for raises as well as potential new benefits, such as flexibility to work remotely.

That their adversary, Mayor Eric Adams, is himself a former city worker who emphasized his background on the campaign trail and collected many union endorsements only adds to their frustration, especially for those who helped keep the city going during the worst of COVID.

“I think that he misrepresented himself to the unions,” said a delegate to DC37 who declined to give their name as they are not authorized to speak publicly about the issue. Delegates are elected to represent their locals at the 300-member Delegates Assembly and are themselves in charge of electing the union’s leadership.

Said Barbara Randolph, a nurse at Lincoln Hospital in The Bronx: “He won’t be mayor for too much longer if he won’t back the union.” The New York State Nurses Association contract with the city’s public Health+Hospitals system expires March 2.

A roadblock: Retired city workers successfully sued to derail Adams’ plan to move retiree health care to a cheaper alternative called Medicare Advantage and charge a monthly fee to those who wish to retain existing coverage. A City Council bill pushed by Adams that would allow him to roll out Medicare Advantage, which he says would save the city $600 million a year, is “dead,” the Daily News reported last week.

That leaves Adams hundreds of millions of dollars short. The planned Medicare Advantage shift originated in deals struck by former Mayor Bill de Blasio and the unions to pay for raises by finding health care savings. As long as that money remains in limbo, new contract negotiations are going nowhere.

“Our contract is not being negotiated until this is resolved,” said the District Council 37 delegate. “That’s what we’ve all been told.” Some public sector union leaders have also said that the health care talks have stood in the way of bargaining a new contract for their members.

Medicare Mess

The executive director of DC 37, Henry Garrido, also co-chairs the Municipal Labor Committee, the consortium of public employee unions that agreed to the health savings deals. He declined to speak about the standoff or his members’ frustrations.

“We don’t bargain in the press,” said Garrido, who declined to comment further. 

Garrido and other union leaders are getting vocal pushback from their ranks — and not just from retirees who would be immediately affected by health coverage changes.

Five chapters of DC37 Local 375 — which represents city planners, engineers and architects — wrote in a Jan. 9 letter to City Council labor committee chair Carmen de la Rosa that they did not support the Medicare Advantage switch and urged her to kill the proposal. DC37 Local 768, which represents therapists, exterminators, and other health technicians, also urged its membership to pressure their City Council members to strike down the bill.

A City Hall spokesperson said the Adams administration is “committed to offering quality and sustainable care for our retirees.

“The city and the Municipal Labor Committee worked together to take advantage of the federal funding for Medicare Advantage plans that would permit us to continue providing high-quality, premium free coverage for retirees while saving approximately $600 million a year — savings that are especially critical as we continue to face a skyrocketing health care crisis and other fiscal challenges,” mayoral spokesperson Jonah Allon said in a statement. 

Pointing to a recent Council hearing on the bill that would break the Medicare Advantage logjam, Allon added: “We presented a clear case that the city’s Medicare Advantage plan would offer myriad improvements over the current SeniorCare plan, while still encouraging the Council to preserve retiree choice by amending the administrative code.”

Health Care Costs 

Marianne Pizzitola, an FDNY retiree and president of the NYC Organization of Public Service retirees, the nonprofit behind the lawsuit, urged the mayor and the Municipal Labor Committee to find another way to reach health care savings.

“This is not being supported by the City Council, it’s not appreciated by our seniors. Let’s do something else. Let’s go back to the bargaining table and figure something out,” she told THE CITY.

The last mayor to let contracts lapse was Michael Bloomberg, who refused to settle with any of the city’s 152 labor unions, effectively leaving those negotiations to his successor.

That was Bill de Blasio, who worked quickly to settle expired contracts upon taking office in 2014, reaching a deal with the UFT that May and DC37 soon after. (Just one union remains at sea: the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, which represents Staten Island Ferry captains and mates, has not had a contract for more than a decade.)The health savings pact, and that $600 million in savings, was a critical piece of the puzzle — one Adams is now trying to solve. 

Mayors traditionally settle labor agreements first with the largest unions, UFT and DC37, which represent about 60% of city employees, setting a pattern that smaller unions then follow in their own negotiations. 

The Adams administration recently began preliminary talks with DC37, whose contract covering 100,000 workers expired in 2021. The loss of expected health savings means money is not flowing into a special health insurance fund that the city and unions jointly administer to help pay for member benefits.

“The unsettled nature of the Medicare Advantage program as well as the overall fiscal health of the Health Insurance Stabilization Fund is an impediment to moving forward with regular labor negotiations,” said Ana Champeny, the vice president for research at the nonprofit Citizens Budget Commission.

She added that rising health care costs need to be dealt with, somehow. 

“The entirety of how the city finances, pays for and provides health insurance benefits and welfare fund benefits to the public sector — both current employees and retirees — needs a close reevaluation,” she said. Collective bargaining, she added, is where these issues will play out.

Reserves and Rainy Days

Experts at the Independent Budget Office, an official fiscal watchdog, say that the steep costs associated with past commitments to help unions pay for GHI Emblem Health, the plan most city workers have enrolled in since the 1940s, are bound to continue piling up. Since the 1980s, city union contracts have only guaranteed funding for an insurance plan that is typically cheaper, called HIP — and making up the difference has become a ongoing scramble.

“There are always trade-offs in any particular budgetary decision,” said IBO assistant director for budget review Logan Clark. “As long as GHI remains more expensive than HIP/HMO, then we’re going to be dealing with this problem sort of in perpetuity.” He called the gap between HIP and GHI premiums “a continuing hole that we will always have to be filling in.”

But there are options to fill the budget gap, at least for the short term, he said. The city could tap into its general reserves, funds set aside every fiscal year, or the Temporary Benefits Trust, a $3.4 billion reserve. 

“That’s something that they could be tapped into as part of the reserves, either by paying down or essentially making smaller payments into next year’s payments for retiree health benefits,” said Clark.

Another option would be dipping into the city’s rainy-day funds – in what would be an unprecedented move because “the promulgation of standards of what constitutes an emergency to tap into the rainy day funds haven’t really been promulgated yet, so that’s something that is certainly up for question,” Clark said.

So far, Adams budgeted enough in his preliminary budget to cover 1.25% annual raises — far below the current 6.3% inflation rate in the New York area.

Adams has used his rank-and-file bona fides to set himself apart from his predecessors, to the annoyance of retirees who sued his administration over the healthcare plan.

Previous mayors, he told an audience of labor leaders at the SOMOS convention in Puerto Rico last November, “never knew what it was like to hold their stomachs when it was time for union contract negotiations. Didn’t know what it was like to fight for their healthcare, to protect their pensions, to be on the union lines to really fight to get the raises you deserve.”

“Like the retirees,” Pizzitola, the president of the NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees, shot back in a moment captured on video.

Arthur Goldstein, a high school ESL teacher who has documented the health care plan saga on his blog, said that he is preparing for a long battle ahead.

“I think we could be without a contract for a very long time.”

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