Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

CUNY Rank-and-File Activists Fight for Safe Reopening

At the City University of New York (CUNY) tens of thousands of students are petitioning for more online classes, and in-person sections are getting canceled left and right due to low enrollment, leading dozens of part-time faculty to lose their jobs. Dissatisfied with the union leadership’s response, rank-and-file union members are taking matters into their own hands.

Left Voice

January 21, 2022
Facebook Twitter Share

As the Omicron variant of Covid-19 surges across the United States, universities all over the country have hastily made plans for how to respond. Many schools have chosen to begin the Spring 2022 semester fully online. Others are digging in their heels on commitments to a fully or mainly in-person semester. Students, faculty, and staff are fighting for their universities to provide high-quality masks, remote work accommodations, smaller class sizes, increased testing, vaccine access, and mask requirements.

At the City University of New York (CUNY), enrollments at the community colleges have reached record lows, tens of thousands of students are petitioning for more online classes, and in-person sections are getting canceled left and right due to low enrollment, leading dozens of part-time faculty to lose their jobs. Dissatisfied with the union leadership’s response, rank-and-file union members are taking matters into their own hands. Below, we repost their call for community members across New York City to join them in solidarity for two upcoming actions demanding a safe reopening that protects everyone’s health, studies, and employment.


As the spring semester approaches, CUNY faces a double crisis. The spread of the Omicron strain of COVID-19 has left many teachers, students, and staff members with questions about working safely on campus. Despite this, CUNY continues to insist on a return to 70% in-person instruction and work for the Spring semester. Workers and students are faced with the choice of risking exposure to the virus or losing their job/dropping out of college. 

This has led to a cataclysmic drop in enrollment. Community colleges are currently at 58% of last year’s enrollment figures, and senior colleges at 84%. In the face of this, CUNY administrators have responded with extreme callousness, encouraging mass course cancellations and in some departments effectively firing all adjuncts who don’t currently have a three-year appointment. Hundreds of people face losing their jobs, with new cancellations announced daily.

The PSC leadership has responded to the enrollment crisis by demanding that no courses get canceled; that CUNY use federal stimulus money to cover revenue drops; and that all staff remain on payroll. They’ve responded to health concerns with a poll on what a “safe return” means for members, and have sent a letter detailing demands to the Chancellor. There is little word, however, on what the union leadership plans to do if their demands are not met. Meanwhile, over 25,000 CUNY students have signed a petition for more online course options. We need a strategy for escalating action to protect vulnerable workers and students.

Rank and File Action joins concerned CUNY students, workers, and community members in calling for action now to demand:

  1. No class cancellations, no layoffs! Use federal pandemic funding to keep all classes open, all students enrolled, and all staff and faculty employed.
  2. Respond to student demands by providing more online course options and meeting accessibility needs.
  3. Allow staff and faculty to work remotely on request, in accordance with student needs–cancel the arbitrary mandate to keep 70% of classes and staff time in-person.
  4. Prioritize safety: provide detailed ventilation information, free medical-grade masks, and free rapid testing/home tests for all students, staff, and faculty.
  5. Full public funding of free tuition and support services for students, including mental wellness and accessibility; full transparency on how CUNY spends pandemic relief funds.

To expose CUNY’s outrageous disregard for workers and students and to publicize our demands, RAFA urges concerned community members to join two urgent actions next week:

#WelcomeBackFightBack Rally and press conference 

Monday, January 24, at 12 noon

At CUNY Central, 205 East 42nd Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues) in Manhattan

#BrunchWithFelo action at CUNY chancellor’s home in Pelham

Saturday, January 29, at 12 noon

Meet at the Metro North train station in Pelham at 11:45am to march to the home of CUNY Chancellor Felix V. Matos Rodriguez at 142 Loring Avenue. Let’s make sure the chancellor and his neighbors hear how he is harming the health and safety of CUNY workers and students with his senseless 70% in-person mandate. As long as Felo insists on making CUNY unsafe, let’s make him uncomfortable. 

RSVP at tiny.cc/CUNY2022 for either or both actions, and share the word with all your CUNY colleagues, students, alumni, and members of other unions. Share the Facebook event. Make a plan with your comrades to attend as a group! Please stay safe with high-quality masks and appropriate distancing during these outdoor actions. Events will be live-streamed for those who are unable to attend in person. 

If you are part of a labor union or a student or community organization, fill out the RSVP form to endorse these urgent actions and demands. Follow RAFA on Twitter at @RanknFileAction and include any of the following hashtags in tweets about the event: #BrunchWithFelo #WelcomeBackFightBack #StrikeCUNY #NoLayoffsCUNY

These actions are just the beginning. We need to prepare for further escalation, up to and including a possible strike. To join the conversation or to get involved in the event planning, email [email protected].

Facebook Twitter Share

Left Voice

Militant journalism, revolutionary politics.

Labor Movement

The Big Three Are Using Layoffs to Punish the UAW and Undermine the Strike

The Big Three are retaliating against the UAW by laying off thousands of its members at plants across the country. Defeating these attacks will require the self organization and mobilization of all the workers.

James Dennis Hoff

September 28, 2023
President Biden visits striking UAW workers in Michigan.

Biden’s Picket Line Visit Doesn’t Mean He Is On Our Side

President Biden’s visit to the UAW picket line shows the strength of the strike — and why it should remain independent from him and the Democrats.

Tatiana Cozzarelli

September 27, 2023

Scabs Will Not Pass: Defend the UAW Strike With Organized Grassroots Power

The Big Three are escalating their use of scabs. The rank and file are fighting back.

Jason Koslowski

September 27, 2023
President Biden giving a speech on Friday, September 15, about the UAW strike. A UAW sign in the background.

Joe Biden Is Afraid of the UAW Strike. That’s a Good Thing.

A few days ago, Biden called on the bosses of the Big Three automakers to give concessions to the striking UAW workers. It’s because he’s scared of the UAW’s power.

Enid Brain

September 20, 2023


The Deadliest Year for U.S.-Mexico Border Crossings Occurred during Biden’s Administration

The humanitarian crisis at the border was created by capitalism. Voting for a lesser evil won’t save the Latin American working class; it will take international, political and strategic solidarity across borders to build a combative immigrants’ rights movement.

Paul Ginestá

September 28, 2023

Toward a Revolutionary Socialist Network

In this article Warren Montag and Joseph Serrano respond to our call for a network for a working-class party for socialism. 

Warren Montag

September 27, 2023

China’s Rise, ‘Diminished Dependency,’ and Imperialism in Times of World Disorder

In this broad-ranging interview, originally published in LINKS, Trotskyist Fraction member Esteban Mercatante discusses how recent global shifts in processes of capital accumulation have contributed to China’s rise, the new (and old) mechanisms big powers use to plunder the Global South, and its implications for anti-imperialist and working-class struggles today.

Esteban Mercatante

September 22, 2023
Migrants from Northern Africa sit in lines on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Crisis in Lampedusa: Down with Fortress Europe, Open the Borders!

The way out of the immigration crisis is through the struggle against imperialism. This is a declaration from the European organizations of the Trotskyist Fraction - Fourth International.