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Using Oral Histories to Develop a Union Blueprint for Action: Gaining Paid Parental Leave at CUNY

Thu, October 9, 10:15 to 11:45am, Madison Concourse Hotel, Floor: 1, Assembly


Paid parental leave is nearly universal throughout the world, with only three countries definitively not offering a legal guarantee of paid maternity leave: Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and the United States. Only a few states offer paid parental leave; New York state is currently not one of them.

The Professional Staff Congress of the City University of New York (PSC-CUNY) represents more than 25,000 faculty and staff at the City University of New York (CUNY) and the CUNY Research Foundation. In 2009, the PSC won a paid parental leave benefit, the first time that public-sector employees of the state of New York gained paid parental leave.

This project exams two aspects of this victory: how important the stories of individual union members were to the winning of this benefit, and how the methods used in this fight can carry over to other fights.

This benefit became an issue at CUNY at a time when there was a major demographic shift. For many years, CUNY had not hired many new faculty. This began to change around 2000. As more faculty were hired, many of them younger and female, there was more demand for the opportunity to be successful and productive academics while also having a family.

This project examines these issues in light of interviews with Barbara Bowen, who has been the president of the PSC since 2000, Deborah Bell, who is the executive director of the PSC, campus activists who brought attention to the issue of paid parental leave, and others. The product of this project will be an audio slideshow which will eventually be available on the PSC website. In addition, there will be showings of the audio slideshow at union functions, both to celebrate the paid parental leave victory and as a model for other actions.