The California Faculty Association (CFA) called for a November strike against the California State University (CSU) system in protest of wage negotiation talks Wednesday at an eSummit online press conference,
CFA members will meet at California State Dominguez Hills and East Bay Universities on Nov. 17 to protest the CSU system’s refusal to give salary increases promised in contracts for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 fiscal years. Faculty members will protest reopeners, or provisions that allow altering parts of a contract (such as wages) before the contract has been fulfilled, in order to receive promised salary increases.
The salary increases in question center around two programs, the equity pay program, which raises pay for long-term faculty members who are paid less than newly-hired faculty, and the Service Salary Increase (SSI), which would raise the salaries of approximately 40 percent of CSU faculty members, according to the Chancellor’s Office.
Both raises were agreed upon in the 2007 three-year contract between the CSU and CFA, before the financial crisis in 2008. With the slashes in CSU state funding after the financial crisis, the Chancellor reopened the 2008-09 and 2009-10 years to cut raises, said Alice Sunshine, communications director for the CFA.
“All the pay raises that were in the contract were eliminated, and at the same time they’ve been paying campus presidents more, hiring more management,” Sunshine said.
The CFA hopes the protest will let the Chancellor’s Office know that the focus of the university should be on teaching and not administration, Sunshine said.
The reopeners not only draw the attention away from the focus on learning, but are are unfair to faculty and students, Sunshine said.
“The real emphasis of the university should be on the classroom,” Sunshine said. “They want to charge the students more, and pay the teachers less.”
But the CSU was released from obligation to raise those salaries when the CSU fell upon hard financial times, according to CSU media specialist Erik Fallis. Though both the 2008-09 and 2009-10 contracts allowed for certain raises, the contracts also state the CSU could choose to not give those raises in the event of funding cuts.
“What we and the university agreed to at the time, which is fairly standard language, is that we would have a reopener in the agreement if the state did not fund the CSU to a certain level,” Fallis said.
The state not only didn’t give the CSU the baseline funding expected, but cut CSU funding for the future. The result was a “desperate times call for desperate measures” budget situation, Fallis said.
“We’re in a whole different type of funding contract environment than when the whole thing was originally bargained,” he said.
The CSU first implemented furloughs, and then reopened the contracts to make up for the money lost.
It is because of the CFA’s willingness to comply with furloughs in 2009-10 that the Chancellor’s Office expected the faculty to understand the reopeners, Fallis said.
Instead, the CFA is calling for a strike, which Fallis said is only going to cause the educational system more harm.
“Concerted activity is, at the moment premature, disruptive and puts students in jeopardy,” he said.
The faculty’s priority always will be students, however, said CFA San Luis Obispo chapter president and mechanical engineering professor Glen Thorncroft.
“The faculty are very, very concerned with making sure students aren’t affected, or minimally affected,” Thorncroft said. “This would be a one-day strike if it happens.”
Though the protests are scheduled to take place at Cal State Dominguez Hills and Cal State East Bay only, faculty members at Cal Poly are planning to participate as well, Thorncroft said.
Cal Poly faculty will be holding their own “informational picketing” on Nov. 8, and those faculty members who choose to, will go to the protests on Nov. 17 as well to express their frustration, Thorncroft said.
“The sense is that the Chancellor is not dealing fair or evenly in the bargaining, and we see this,” Thorncroft said.
The CFA is currently collecting commitment cards from faculty members to see if the possibility of a strike has enough popular support. If most of the CSU faculty reply favorably, strikes are likely to happen first in Cal State Dominguez Hills and Cal State East Bay, and later at other institutions, until the faculty feel that they have been dealt with fairly, Thorncroft said.
“The problem really in my mind is here we are in a budgetary crisis, and the chancellor is literally refusing to raise faculty and staff salaries, and says you’ve got to pay the executives what they’re worth,” Thorncroft said. “That’s a slap in the face.”