PSC CUNY Endorses Sanders Amid Coronavirus

Photo: Some rights reserved by Michael Vadon

By Melissa Lent

CUNY–CUNY’s Professional Staff Congress’ delegate assembly endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination for president during their March 19 meeting. 

With the New York primary approaching on April 28, the PSC published an official statement supporting Sanders. The group cited the senator’s progressive agenda on higher education as the main reason for its endorsement, as well as broader issues such as union protections and immigration, according to its news release. The coronavirus pandemic further convinced the assembly to endorse Sanders because of his platform on universal health care, economic inequality, climate change and a proposed billionaires’ tax, issues they said demand higher importance now, according to the release. Jennifer Gaboury, Hunter College’s interim chapter chair in the PSC, said despite a Biden lead and other current events, the assembly vote still skewed heavily in favor of Sanders.

 “This is all happening in a really different way than we imagined,” said Gaboury, a lecturer and adviser in Hunter’s women and gender studies department. 

The PSC Executive Council initially proposed a resolution for a dual endorsement of Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren in February and asked for commentary from their members, according to the PSC news release. A large majority supported the dual endorsement. After Warren dropped out of the race, Biden picked up steam in other state primaries and the coronavirus pushed Governor Cuomo to declare a state of emergency, the PSC reconsidered their proposal, according to Gaboury. At the recent March 19 meeting, she said most of the deliberation about the endorsement revolved around what it meant to endorse Sanders with a Biden lead. 

They reached a consensus that although Sanders lagged behind Biden, his presence in the race raised progressive issues important to students, staff and faculty in higher education, said Gaboury. PSC CUNY is also supporting whichever Democratic candidate moves on to the general election, said the news release.

Some delegates in the meeting spoke against the endorsement and the support for the general election nominee, according to the release. Many assume Joe Biden, the country’s former vice president, will secure the nomination. While Gaboury expressed she and other members dislike Biden’s history with higher education, they see the need to defeat President Trump.

Most members voted for the endorsement. The union also recognized each members’ right to vote for whichever candidate they most supported, said the release.

Sigmund Shen, the PSC chapter chair at LaGuardia Community College, said the delegates should use “this endorsement to send a message that the issues matter, a movement matters, and even in the most frightening times, building on our hopes for a better future matters,” according to the news release.

The delegate assembly met through Zoom due to the work-from-home policies instituted during COVID-19, as evidenced through their website’s event page. Most of the meeting revolved around protecting students, PSC-represented employees and the city in light of the pandemic, according to Gaboury. She also said members have worked towards advocating for education funding before the April 1 New York State budget deadline. While the coronavirus and government financing have taken precedent for PSC CUNY, Gaboury said the way Sanders uses his platform on both issues ties into their work. 

“I will continue to support Bernie Sanders as long as he is in the race, and then I will continue to support the things that he stands for just as I did before he was a candidate in 2015,” said Gaboury.