The California Faculty Association (CFA) announced voter approval of a potential strike Wednesday after 12 days of voting throughout the California State University (CSU) campuses.
CFA President Lillian Taiz, a history professor at California State University, Los Angeles, said at a press conference Wednesday that 95 percent of members who voted approved of the strike, which could take place as early as fall.
“The faculty of the California State University have had enough,” Taiz said after announcing the results. “Enough of executives putting themselves above the needs of students … enough of managers using budget cuts as an excuse to destroy the quality of our students’ education. The message to (CSU Chancellor Charles Reed) is absolutely clear: The CSU faculty have run out of patience.”
The CFA, which represents approximately 23,000 faculty and staff across the state’s colleges, has seen a breakdown of relations with CSU administrators during recent years that resulted in other strike votes throughout the system.
When the union approved a strike in 2006 during similar contract negotiations, Reed and the CSU went back to the negotiating table and eventually reached a resolution. But last fall, two simultaneous strikes were carried out at CSU campuses to protest raises the CSU denied to faculty.
The issue at the center of Wednesday’s strike vote is a contract negotiation between the two parties that broke down in mid-April. After a mediator declared efforts unsuccessful last month, the two parties began the process to find a third-party fact finder who will propose an offer for the two sides. For now, the bargainers for each side are in the final stages of negotiations and plan to meet Thursday and Friday to work further toward a compromise.
Among the CFA’s grievances are issues with workload, academic freedom and compensation. Cal Poly’s CFA Chapter President Glen Thorncroft said the union’s requests have been reasonable, but the CSU has not been bargaining in good faith.
The university system disagrees, however. CSU spokesperson Erik Fallis said some of the CFA’s arguments have been based in rhetoric instead of using just fact. He said the strike is just a “side show” while the real work is going on during collective bargaining.
“It’s not appropriate at this time to fight things out in the form of strike votes and things like that,” Fallis said. “We need to be working on negotiations at the table.”
The two parties have been planning for weeks to continue bargaining Thursday and Friday, Fallis said. He said the strike vote was a premature measure by the union and does not predict negotiations breaking down in the near future.
“This election didn’t lead us to the table; we had decided that before the vote,” Fallis said. “We’re hopeful that we can come to an agreement, but that involves both side actually agreeing.”
Only after going through the fact-finding process and rejecting a final offer from the CSU will faculty legally be allowed to strike. Thorncroft said he is not sure it will come to a strike, because if further negotiating is successful, the faculty will not need to protest.
“Prepare for it,” Thorncroft said. “I’m hopeful this will bring the chancellor back to the table. But his past behavior is not promising on this.”
If all bargaining fails, this vote paves the way for a series of two-day rolling strikes throughout the state. Each campus, including Cal Poly, could see days of protestors, picket lines and heavy media attention.
A strike would clearly have an impact on students, Thorncroft said, but he could not say when the strike might take place. The earliest it could come to Cal Poly would be fall quarter, he said.
“Our students should know that we faculty are so dedicated to the students that we want to minimize the impact on the students and their education,” Thorncroft said.
Approximately 70 percent of the 12,501 CFA members participated in the strike votes, Taiz said. No statistics were available for Cal Poly’s union members’ votes as of press time, but Thorncroft said he predicts voter turnout was higher than the last strike vote in San Luis Obispo in 2006.