Cal Poly members of the California Faculty Association (CFA) marched outside of the administration building Tuesday as part of a California-wide picket by the association. The picket followed a CFA vote Monday to organize a one-day strike on two California State University (CSU) campuses.
Glen Thorncroft, president of the local chapter of CFA and mechanical engineering professor, said the picket took place to help work toward a fair contract for the faculty and staff.
“It’s about quality higher education,” Thorncroft said. “It’s about the students who we’re here to serve. And we’re pretty upset about tuition that has gone up three times in the last 10 years. We’re pretty upset the chancellor seems unwilling to bargain with the faculty for a fair contract.”
The previous contract expired in June 2010, so the faculty has been working without a contract for more than a year. CSU Chancellor Charles Reed denied a request by the CFA to extend the contract, as well as additional requests by the association to create a new contract.
“This is not about some esoteric budget fight with the chancellor,” Thorncroft said. “It’s really about making sure we have good faculty in the classroom.”
Thorncroft said there has been a breakdown in communication with the chancellor.
“It turns out the only way the chancellor operates is, again, he does what he wants until he’s forced to do the right thing,” he said.
The move to strike was supported by 93 percent of voters in the association, and was followed by a special session of the CFA Board of Directors and chapter presidents. At that meeting, the board unanimously voted for the one-day strike at CSU East Bay and CSU Dominguez Hills.
Cal Poly traditionally has a low membership in CFA, but the San Luis Obispo faculty membership rate for CFA is now one of the highest in the state, Thorncroft said.
“When Chancellor Reed looks at Cal Poly, and says, ‘Oh, even they’re mad,’ I think that’s going to send a signal,” Thorncroft said.
The rally on Tuesday drew more than 50 faculty members at Cal Poly, all armed with signs and an array of protesting chants.
“We have a mantra now, which is, ‘You either strike a deal, or you’re going to have to deal with strikes,’” Thorncroft said. “Maybe this will turn the corner with this chancellor and make him workable again.”
Thorncroft said though he spoke to President Jeffrey Armstrong, and the two came to an understanding on the CFA’s position, the protest was intentionally held in front of the president’s office.
“Our primary target is Reed,” Jere Ramsey, a lecturer representative for CFA, said. “(Armstrong) is our Reed representative on campus, for better or worse. So that’s why we’re targeting the president’s office.”
Modern languages and literature professor Brian Kennelly said he came to the protest today because he was “mad as hell.”
“This is my sixth year here,” he said. “I remember protesting my first year for a fair contract, which we all thought we successfully negotiated.”
Based off his anticipation of salary raises under the old contract, Kennelly bought a house in Atascadero. He said his mortgage is now “underwater,” and he cannot afford it under the current wages.
“I survived (by fighting) tooth-and-nail for my first year, and that was it,” he said. “I haven’t had a raise in four or five years.”
Kennelly said, though, his top reasons for protesting revolve around wages for faculty, as those wages do ultimately affect the students at Cal Poly.
“It’s unfair for students to be taught by professors who may be moonlighting on the side just so they can pay their bills,” he said. “If they don’t have the income to be putting 100 percent of their time into teaching, they may very well be working at Taco Bell.”
Erik Fallis, a representative of the CSU Chancellor’s office, said the CSU’s main concern is still for the students.
“Students should not be put into the middle between the CFA and administration,” he said. “Any action to do that is completely unacceptable.”
Rather than in-fighting, Fallis said the CSU and faculty should be focusing on getting more state funding for education.
“It’s a pretty frustrating time for everyone at the CSU,” he said.
A bus of approximately 30 Cal Poly faculty will leave on Nov. 17, the day of the strike, for CSU Dominguez Hills to show support for the CFA on that campus. Though there is no strike currently scheduled at Cal Poly, Thorncroft said there may be one in the future.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlwdaJpBIq4[/youtube]