California State University (CSU) faculty were ready to strike. Then it all came to a screeching halt, at least for the time being.
To help provide clarity about the situation, here are some answers to general questions you may have about the strike, what led to it, what brought it to a temporary stop and what this means for Cal Poly.
All CSU faculty took pay cuts during the 2009-10 school year when the recession hit the CSU system hard — there were approximately $580 million in budget cuts, according to a furlough agreement between the CSU and Cal Poly faculty.
Cal Poly faculty agreed to take 18 furlough days during the 2009-10 school year to alleviate the school’s money struggles. After that, they spent several years without receiving any pay raises.
The California Faculty Association (CFA) — a union that supports faculty, including professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches — then worked with the CSU faculty to demand a 5 percent general salary increase to compensate for the salaries lost during the 2009-10 furlough period.
CSU management eventually gave faculty raises ranging from approximately 1.3 to 1.6 percent, but for some faculty, including Cal Poly CFA chapter president Graham Archer, that wasn’t enough.
“(The raises) barely even impact your bank account over time, and at the same time, you know, my house payment didn’t go down,” Archer, an architectural engineering professor, said in a previous interview with Mustang News.
CSU management then started to offer a 2 percent increase. They’ve been offering that for the past two years. This would equal $33 million to be dispersed among the faculty, according to a CSU web page. That’s just shy of $1,270 per person, if the money were distributed equally across the 26,000 union members.
But 2 percent wasn’t enough for the CFA. Instead of taking the offer, they stuck with their 5 percent demand. This 5 percent increase would have cost approximately $102.3 million — approximately $3,930 per person, if distributed equally.
Some CSU faculty and staff members were depending on this higher pay increase. According to a survey conducted by the CFA, out of 5,500 faculty who responded, 72 percent said they had to take on extra work to help with finances.
That included Cal Poly faculty and staff.
“Many professors take extra jobs because they can’t afford to live here,” history lecturer Cameron Jones said.
According to Trulia — an online residential real estate site — housing market trends show that in San Luis Obispo, there is an 8 percent year-over-year rise for median sale prices. Median sale prices for a home in San Luis Obispo are $585,000.
Jones says most faculty members can’t afford to buy a house in San Luis Obispo.
“It’s becoming, pretty quickly, (that) we can’t even afford to buy a house in the county,” Jones said.
The strike was postponed Thursday, April 7 when officials from the CSU system and the CFA met a tentative salary agreement, which they announced Friday.
The two parties came up with this tentative agreement:
There will be a 10.5 percent general salary increase for CSU faculty which will be distributed over three fiscal years:
- 5 percent will be implemented at the end of this budget year on June 30, 2016
- 2 percent will be implemented at the beginning of the next budget year on July 1, 2016
- 3.5 percent will be implemented on July 1, 2017
- There will also be 2.65 percent increase in additional benefits to be distributed throughout the third fiscal year to eligible faculty based on their hiring date
This plan still needs to be approved by the CSU Board of Trustees and the CFA Board of Directors and members before it can officially go through.
“I think this agreement represents compromise on both sides, and a commitment to economic security and stability for faculty moving forward,” CFA President Jennifer Eagan said.
CSU Chancellor Timothy White said he “couldn’t be happier” that an agreement was reached, and Eagan agreed.
Though Eagan was happy about the agreement, she said she recognizes it isn’t an immediate fix for faculty members’ issues, but will certainly help.
Though the strike is postponed, that doesn’t mean it’s called off for good.
Archer said the faculty and staff are still prepared to strike in Fall 2016 if the agreement is not reached.
“If the tentative agreement is not successful … we’re absolutely ready to strike in the fall,” Archer said. “The reason it’s the fall and not this quarter is that there are far more campuses that are semester. And so by the 6th of May, they’re virtually done.”
Despite this possibility, White and Eagan said they think the agreement will be ratified. They agreed that their compromise is beneficial to all, and said it will set a precedent for future conflicts.
“The time that we are at our best is when difficult things are approached together, debated, thought through, analyzed; people are willing to be persuaded and to persuade,” White said. “But once we get to a decision, (we must) move forward with that decision.”
Graphics created by Celina Oseguera