Credit: Liz Ridley / Mustang News

Laura Quinn splits her weekdays between Cal State San Bernardino, the University of Redlands and her 12-year-old child. 

Quinn teaches for ten hours on Tuesday and Thursday and from nine until seven on Monday and Wednesday.

“My schedule is crazy,” she said. 

Quinn is among the many CSU lecturers who have to work a second job to make ends meet. Currently, the average salary for a lecturer is $66,159, according to the CSU.

 The California Faculty Association (CFA) announced on Sept. 28 that a strike vote would occur on Oct. 21 as the CSU and CFA reach the final stages of bargaining, according to the CFA.

“I’ve already signed my commitment card [to strike],” Quinn said. “Frankly, this isn’t even going far enough, but it’s a start.”

On May 1, the CFA reopened their Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which according to the CFA determines the conditions of faculty employment at the CSU. In the reopener, the CSU and CFA would revisit five issues of interest to faculty: salary, workload, paid leave, health and safety. 

The most contentious point of bargaining in the reopener is the CFA’s push for a 12% increase in faculty salaries. 

Courtesy of CFA California Faculty Association Facebook

The CSU counterproposed a 4% increase in salaries for faculty. CFA-SLO President Lisa Kawamura said that the CSU is hesitant to increase salaries to the extent that the CFA is asking because of funding gaps in the CSU budget. However, Kawamura said that Gov. Gavin Newsom told the CFA that they should have received the salary increases from the CSU, as those increases were baked into the 5% budget increase the CSU received earlier this year – an item which was lobbied for by CFA members. 

Hazel said that the Mercer Study – a study conducted by the CSU board of trustees on faculty retention and pay in 2022 – reaffirmed that CSU faculty are compensated similarly to institutions chosen in the Mercer study. However, the CFA maintains skepticism of the Mercer study’s methodology and results, as it did not compare the CSU with UCs or California community colleges. 

The CSU denied Newsom’s comment in addition to denying that salary raises were part of the CSU funding increase compact, according to CSU Public Affairs Manager Kelly Hazel. 

Political Action and Legislative Chair of CFA-SLO Cameron Jones described the study as “problematic” as the data used in the study still has not been fully released. 

CFA Bargaining Team Member Steven Filling said that the CSU’s budget deficits, which prevent them from increasing facility pay, are fabricated.

The CFA is also asking for more counselors and lactation rooms on campuses, reforms to campus policing, gender-neutral bathrooms and free parking for faculty. 

The CSU rejected these proposals. Hazel said that the CSU provides lactation space and that any changes to campus policing would require the CSU to violate the police union’s collective bargaining agreement with the CSU. Hazel did not address the CFA’s proposals on increasing the number of gender-neutral bathrooms or free parking for faculty.

Filling said the CFA is “puzzled” by the CSU’s statement on police reform as their proposal “speaks to the safety and wellbeing of our members, not the terms of the police union contract.” 

The CFA and CSU are currently at the stage of fact-finding, one of the last stages of bargaining in the contract negotiations. During ‘fact-finding,’ a neutral third party adjudicates the two sides’ proposals and creates a recommendation. If fact-finding fails to yield a contract, then both sides will propose their final proposals. If the final proposals are rejected a strike can be authorized by the CFA.

“We hope a strike – if we do one – won’t last long,” CFA-SLO Political Action and Legislative Analyst Dr. Cameron Jones said. “But we are willing to do what it takes.” 

According to Jones, the union believes that a strike will benefit students because it will allow the CFA to retain more faculty and reduce class sizes, making “classes more conducive to learning.”

Courtesy of CFA California Faculty Association Facebook Credit: CFA California Faculty Association Facebook / Courtesy

In the short term, Jones added that the CFA is rearing its members for a strike vote now so they are not caught unprepared in the event that all negotiations fall through. Further, Jones said the strikes will be ‘rolling’ and a complete stoppage has not been ruled out, though Jones noted that the CFA hopes to avoid striking near Thanksgiving break and finals week.

“The CSU remains committed to our students and our academic mission, and should a strike occur, campuses will work to ensure that students are affected as little as possible,” Hazel said. 

Faculty speak out on their experience

Ex-Chancellor Jolene Koester released a video upon her resignation from CSU on Aug. 28, explaining the CSU’s positions in the contract negotiations. 

“As we begin another academic year, please know that I fully appreciate the transformative work – that magic that you do for the students we serve,” Koester said in her address. 

Many faculty members found the video belittling and out of touch as Koester called the reopener a “momentary challenge” and told faculty members that there was nothing the CSU could do to meet the CFA’s demands.

“In this culture, value is demonstrated by salary, and ours is below where it should be, and has been as long as I have been at a CSU (23 years),”  CSUF Professor Benjamin Boone wrote. “If you value us, raise our salaries – don’t feed us hollow words of gratitude not backed up by action.”

Boone’s sentiment was reiterated by hundreds of CSU faculty who commented on the video. 

CFA-SLO Faculty Rights Chair Neal MacDougall said lecturers like Quinn are the most under-appreciated faculty.

“[Lecturers] often do extra work for free, like when they advise students and do stuff that they feel helps students, but it’s usually not the case that a department will include that in their [the lecturers] units,” MacDougall said.

MacDougall also pointed out that Cal Poly is not good at explaining to new hires that they are under CBAs and of the distinction between what department chairs can or can’t order them to do. 

Quinn said she is among thousands of lecturers in the CSU system who work a second or third job to make ends meet. Furthermore, lecturers make up a majority of CSU academic faculty. 

“When you look around that it’s like, we [the faculty] are producing the labor that is providing everything that is necessary for this institution to exist,” Quinn said. “I would love to see a video diary of a week of a president or chancellor like, ‘Show me what you do.’”