Seeking to wring every drop of liberal voting juice out of the blue/commie bastion that is New York City, Brooklyn-born presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has waded into a CUNY labor dispute on the side of the workers. About 25,000 City University of New York professors and staffers have gone without a raise or a contract since 2010, in part because state funding, about half of the New York City university system's budget, has not kept up with inflation.
On Friday, the New York Times reports, Sanders sent Governor Andrew Cuomo a letter calling for him to give the faculty a fair shake:
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. It should continue to represent that possibility.
That is why I am troubled by New York State’s refusal so far to invest in a fair contract for the university’s faculty and staff...Show New Yorkers that your concern for working people and people of color includes a commitment to their ability to achieve a college education.
Also on Friday, Cuomo vetoed a bill that would have required the state to cover predictable increases in CUNY and SUNY costs, such as inflation, rising utility and health insurance rates, and non-contract raises.
A 2011 bill allowed CUNY and SUNY to increase tuition by $300 a year until 2016, and called for the state to keep its university funding where it is. CUNY is facing a $51 million budget shortfall this year, according to the Times, because that funding has not increased with inflation.
Cuomo aide Jim Malatras told the Times the funding bill was vetoed because it would have committed the state to another $600 million in spending, and the governor believed that should not be done outside of the budget process. The bill Cuomo threw out, of course, had to pass through the state Assembly and Senate to reach his desk.
CUNY's faculty and staff union the Professional Staff Congress wrote in a statement:
Governor Cuomo's veto represents a decision not to invest in sustaining top-quality college education for the working people, the poor and the people of color in New York. His position is now absolutely clear.
Cuomo had the chance with this bill to take an action that had huge bipartisan support and that would have resonated not only in New York City but across the state. He deliberately refused that chance, despite his repeated claims of being a leader in progressive policy. He cannot be a progressive while systematically withholding funds from CUNY.
A recent poll by the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics shows 39 percent of Iowans leaning Sanders in the upcoming state caucus, versus 48 percent for Hillary Clinton. New York's union-funded Working Families Party endorsed the Vermont senator last week. Sanders has pledged to, if elected, make public colleges free and reform the student loan system.