Barbara Bowen


President of Professional Staff Congress




New York City

Board Memberships:

Left Forum, American Federation of Teachers, Workers Defense League

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Barbara Bowen is the vice president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), one of the largest and most controversial labor unions in the United States. Bowen is also president of the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), a left-of-center labor union which represents professors of the City University of New York (CUNY) system of colleges, at which Bowen is a professor of English and African-American studies. Before her work as a professor, Bowen worked as a left-of-center labor organizer. 1

Bowen has made contributions to several Democratic candidates for public office and sits on a number of boards for organizations that support the Democratic Party. She has also heavily advocated for the implementation of socialist policy in the United States and has supported socialist movements abroad. 2


Barbara Bowen has been a longtime advocate in support of left-of-center labor issues and began her career as a labor organizer. As a Ph.D. student in New York, she split her time between her studies and organizing tenants and clerical workers in Connecticut. During her time as a student, she also worked as a VISTA Volunteer with AmeriCorps, a U.S. government-funded organization that funds volunteer programs with the aim of fighting poverty. 3

Career in Labor Organizing

Labor Union Leadership

As of 2021, Bowen sits as vice president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the second largest union representing teachers in the United States. 4 Bowen is a member of the board of directors for the New York City Central Labor Council, an AFL-CIO network of labor unions with members including local affiliates of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) (SEIU), Unite Here, and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). She also sits as a member of the board of directors for the New York State United Teachers labor union, which represents 600,000 teachers in New York City and is closely connected to the Democratic Party. 5

Professional Staff Congress

Bowen is the president of the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), a labor union representing the faculty and staff of the City University of New York (CUNY) network of universities. 6 The labor union includes over 25,000 faculty professors and support staff from over 25 CUNY campuses across New York. The PSC is a local affiliate of the AFT and a member of the AFL-CIO. The union is also associated with the American Association of University Professors. The organization is a partner of the Working Families Party, a left-wing political party which bases its platform on support for labor unions and left-wing labor proposals. 7

Socialist Advocacy

As president of the PSC, Bowen has supported left-wing socialist movements. Shortly after her being elected president of the union in 1999, Bowen donate $5,000 of union funds to the legal defense fund for Lori Berenson. Berenson was convicted in Peru for collaborating with the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, a Marxist-Leninist terrorist guerilla organization that advocated for a left-wing regime in Peru. 8 Under Bowen’s leadership, PSC signed a letter in 2005 authored by Hands Off Venezuela, a left-of-center coalition of organizations that called for decreased U.S. scrutiny of Hugo Chavez’s socialist government. 9


Bowen was arrested in 2015 for blocking the doors to the main office of CUNY. Bowen was protesting with 40 other members of the union after it failed to come to an agreement on pay raises for professors at the university. Bowen was charged with disorderly conduct following her arrest. 10 Bowen was arrested again in 2018 after leading a protest at Baruch College demanding that it double pay for adjunct professors. 11

Board Positions

Barbara Bowen is a member of the board of directors for Left Forum, a left-wing organization that advocates for socialist policy and is associated with Marxist organizations. 12 The organization was formerly known as the Socialist Scholars Conference and has hosted a several controversial speakers including Jesse Jackson, a left-wing activist preacher, and controversial academic Noam Chomsky. 13  Bowen also sits as a member of the national board of directors for the Workers Defense League, a left-of-center workers’ organization that was co-founded by six-time Socialist Party of America presidential nominee Norman Thomas. 14

Political Contributions

Bowen has made several contributions to the Democratic Party and Democratic elected officials. In 2011 and 2012, she made donations totaling $450 to Obama for America, the PAC associated with the 2012 reelection campaign of president Barack Obama. She also donated $300 to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in 2010. 15


  1. “About us: President Barbara Bowen.” PSC. Accessed July 21, 2021.
  2. “Individual Contributions: Barbara Bowen.” Accessed July 22, 2021.
  3. “May Day 2000, a Tribute to Barbara Bowen.” University of Louisville. Accessed July 21, 2021.
  4. “AFT Leadership: Barbara Bowen.” AFT. Accessed July 21, 2021.
  5. “About us: President Barbara Bowen.” PSC. Accessed July 21, 2021.
  6. “Barbara Bowen Profile.” PSC CUNY. Accessed July 21, 2021.
  7. “About Us.” PSC. Accessed July 21, 2021.
  8. “The Perils of Academic Unionism.” History News Network, George Washington University. Accessed July 22, 2021.
  9. “To the U.S. Government: Hands off Venezuela.” Hands off Venezuela. Accessed July 22, 2021.
  10. “CUNY union members arrested after contract protest.” Conor Skelding, Politico. Accessed July 22, 2021.
  11. “Police arrest roughly 17 members of CUNY’s faculty union during contract rally.” Madina Touré, Politico.
  12. “Advisors and Organizations.” Left Forum. Accessed July 22, 2021.
  13. “History – Left Forum.” Left Forum. Accessed July 22, 2021.
  14. “Board of Directors.” Workers Defense League. Accessed July 22, 2021. 
  15. “Individual Contributions: Barbara Bowen.” Accessed July 22, 2021.

Connected Organizations

  1. American Federation of Teachers (AFT) (Labor Union)
    Vice President
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