A bulleted list of the tentative contract’s main points are at the bottom of the article.
When the California State University (CSU) system and California Faculty Association (CFA) come together to present a tentative contract for CSU faculty, there are usually a lot of smiling faces in the room, Cal Poly architectural engineering professor Cole McDaniel said.
Not this time.
The CSU system and CFA came to a tentative agreement for a faculty contract last week after going approximately 100 days without one.
The contents of the agreement were released to the faculty after the assembly. When all was said and done, CFA recommended the faculty vote “yes” and ratify the contract.
The agreement included a 1.6 percent General Salary Increase (GSI).
Graham Archer, president of the San Luis Obispo Chapter of the CFA and architectural engineering professor, was unhappy with the GSI.
“The salary increase is much lower than I was hoping for,” Archer said.
The CFA was only able to agree on a 1.6 percent salary increase for the first year. The second and third years of the contract will be negotiated in the future, which Archer sees as a pitfall for the contract.
“Salaries were the most important thing that our members identified,” Archer said. “However, if you look at all the highlighted points, there are many things in there that certain faculty would be very happy about.”
One of these highlights is for lecturers, he said. Lecturer L — the lowest-paid lecturer position — will be eliminated.
“And that’s very significant for some people because they’re stuck in this horrifically underpaid category,” Archer said.
Archer also pointed out the problem of professors being put into the wrong pay category upon being hired, known as misclassification.
The contract is supposed to fix this problem, Archer said. For example, professors who have a terminal degree, such as a Ph.D., and are stuck as Lecturer A will immediately be boosted to Lecturer B, which pays more.
According to Archer, there is also $2 million set aside for a system-wide equity program. However, he wasn’t optimistic about it.
“To be honest, a $2 million split over 23 campuses tells me that it’s going to be a very small equity program indeed,” he said. “Maybe on order of some, faculty might see $50 per month more. So we would absolutely be counting on President Armstrong’s Cal Poly equity solution.”
McDaniel believed the low salary increase overrode everything else in the contract.
“With the improving economy and years without raises, I would’ve thought that the union would have been in a strong position to negotiate a better agreement,” McDaniel said.
Lewis Call, Cal Poly History Department Chair and history associate professor, was relatively happy with the contract.
“First of all, let me say that I’m very happy to see that CFA has reached a tentative agreement with the CSU,” Call said. “And I’m very grateful for the CFA bargaining team for all the hard work that they did. And I’m also grateful to the CSU bargaining team as well because it looks like they were willing to work with the union in this case.”
He was also happy to see they reached an agreement sooner than in past negotiations, he said.
But, though seemingly positive, Call did describe the 1.6 percent GSI as “somewhat disappointing.”
“I went back and I checked the average rate of inflation over the past year and it’s about 1.6 percent,” Call said. “So basically the general salary increase is approximately the same as the rate of inflation so if you look at it like that, it’s not really a raise, right? It’s just enough to sort of keep pace with inflation. And it doesn’t really address all the ground that’s been lost in previous years when we didn’t get any raises at all.”
McDaniel was comparatively disappointed in the bargaining team.
“For myself, I’m disappointed with the union bargaining team and the CFA board of directors for unanimously recommending the faculty vote ‘yes’ for the contract,” he said. “At least for myself and many of the faculty at Cal Poly, we will only see a salary increase of 1.6 percent, which after years of not receiving raises I was expecting to see much, much better.”
In addition to the GSI, the contract also provides a 3 percent service salary increase, or step increase.
“That will be available to any faculty member who’s not yet maxed out in their current salary range,” Call said. “You know, I think it’s important to consider that as well, other people might be understandably disappointed with the low general salary increase. Quite a few people will get that 3 percent as well.”
The next step
The CFA hopes to get the CSU faculty to vote by Nov. 7 and the trustees to sign the contract at their Nov. 12 meeting, Archer said.
“Unfortunately, there are no more negotiations to a large degree,” Archer said. “If it’s not ratified, that’s a signal that the faculty would prefer to strike rather than accept this deal.”
Archer is unsure if faculty will choose to ratify or strike. He plans to provide them with information and let them make up their own minds.
McDaniel believed that if this contract were only for Cal Poly, not the entire CSU system, it would not be ratified.
“The Cal Poly union representatives have voiced disapproval of the past few contracts, so I’m in agreement with the Cal Poly union reps,” McDaniel said. “However, we’re only one of 23 CSU campuses, so our voice is in the minority. And unfortunately, the contract applies to all 23 campuses. So in that standpoint, I think Cal Poly’s is suffering.”
Archer said he was particularly unhappy about the CSU system’s refusal to compromise during negotiations.
“That’s the upshot of it,” he said. “That’s why there’s no agreement for the second and third year, and that’s why the agreement for this first year is what it is. It’s very clear the CSU was not willing to budge.”
Archer said the CSU isn’t all to blame. The legislature and governor were not willing to fund the CSU at a level he believed appropriate.
The CFA was under the impression the CSU had more money than it let on, Archer said.
“And so we felt that the CSU did have enough to increase what they were offering from 3 percent in the first year to 4,” Archer said.
Suggestion to improve bargaining
McDaniel saw a need for a new union bargaining team to successfully negotiate a better contract in the future, he said.
“Over the past few years, we’ve seen declining state support for public education and that’s really hurt us,” Call said. “So we’re to the point now that I believe Cal Poly receives less than 50 percent of its funding from the state.”
CSU schools are supposed to be mainly funded by public funding. But according to Call, this is less and less the case now.
“It does make it very difficult to carry out the educational mission of the university,” Call said.
However, Call doesn’t believe this will affect the quality of Cal Poly teachers.
“The one thing that really amazes me about the faculty at Cal Poly is that they’re so thoroughly dedicated to their students regardless of whether or not they have a contract, regardless of what their salary is, regardless of the fact that they haven’t had significant raises for a long time,” Call said.
As sitting president of the San Luis Obispo CFA, Archer said he can’t comment on much but said he was unhappy and hoping for more.
“It’s just one year of a three-year battle,” Archer said. “So I’m fairly hopeful we’ll come out on top eventually.”
Tentative contract main points
- A General Salary Increase (GSI) for all faculty members.
- A CSU-wide equity program to correct inversion and compression caused by hiring issues during the recession.
- Salary Recovery Adjustments for faculty who are below their respective salary step maximums; this affects certain tenure-track faculty, lecturers (temporary faculty) and coaches.
- Fixes misclassification of lecturers who have languished in extremely low-paid salary ranges. Eliminates the lowest pay category for lecturers.