The California Faculty Association (CFA) executed a planned strike at California State University (CSU) Dominguez Hills and East Bay campuses Thursday. The protests, which began in the early morning and went into the night, came just one day after a 9 percent tuition increase voted on by the CSU Board of Trustees.
The strike was voted on in early November by association members, and passed with more than 90 percent of voting members’ approval. Because the association has been working without a contract since 2010, members could only legally strike about raises under their old contract that they say were not honored.
The CFA represents approximately 23,000 faculty and staff at the 23 CSU universities.
CSU spokesperson Erik Fallis said in a previous interview the raises were not honored because of budget cuts in education. CSU representatives have maintained that after budget cuts, the money is not available to pay for additional raises to faculty. They said the CSU has paid $60 million in raises to faculty, which is more than any group in the CSU.
Cal Poly architectural engineering professor Jill Nelson, who made the trip to CSU Dominguez Hills on a CFA sponsored charter bus along with six other professors, worked for 30 years in the private sector before coming to Cal Poly. She said this is the first time she has worked without a raise over the course of four years.
San Luis Obispo CFA chapter president Glen Thorncroft said the turnout of six members from Cal Poly faculty was fairly expected, due to San Luis Obispo’s distance from both campuses.
“It’s a 12-hour commitment,” Thorncroft said. “And they want to minimize the impact on their students as much as possible.”
These professors either canceled classes or had proctors come in to monitor their students for the day so they could strike for an issue that they said was important to public education in California.
“We’re striking about our inability — or the threat to our ability — to provide quality education to students,” CFA president Lillian Taiz said.
Taiz said CSU Chancellor Charles Reed’s inefficient spending was an issue at the heart of the strike, and that part of the problem is his “really crazy priorities.”
“It’s like any crisis,” she said. “You need to really focus on what’s important, and invest there every nickel you have. And he’s refusing to do it.”
Protestors chanted and waved signs throughout the day, and drivers honked horns as they drove by. A small jazz band took to playing in front of the main protest site, while a man banged a drum in rhythm with the chants.
One protestor brought a larger-than-life puppet in caricature of Reed. People waved it around across the street from the main picketing site, and stuffed the puppet’s hands with cash.
San Luis Obispo chapter treasurer Jere Ramsey said the focus of the strike had somewhat shifted from faculty pay raises to students’ concerns due to the 9 percent increase in tuition vote on Wednesday.
“Much more important than these little bits of money for a small group of people are these types of priorities that undermine our ability to deliver quality education, and that’s why we’re out here,” Ramsey said.
Students from different universities in the state attended the picket to support their professors.
“Our faculty does deserve the raise that they need,” CSU Dominguez Hills junior Gabriela Partida said. “They haven’t hired any new faculty in a matter of years, but they keep adding on new students. So it’s not fair to them.”
CFA picketers tried to block off all entrances into the university by slowly marching in the crosswalks at different points of entry. Cal Poly faculty were stationed outside the entrance to the Home Depot Center, which can provide access into campus.
Police were scattered around the sites, ensuring violence did not become an equation in the protest, as it did on Wednesday in Long Beach. Taiz said she was not concerned about the police present.
“There’s sociologists, historians, philosophers (and) biology teachers, and they’re not usually inclined to violence,” she said. “They’re inclined to talk too much, but they’re not inclined to violence.”
Steve Holt, a campus service representative for the CFA, said the issue is larger than just the dispute between the union and the Chancellor’s Office.
“We’re here to send a message from the state of California, that we care about public education,” he said. “We care about education as a human right. We care about ensuring quality education for all students. And in order for that to happen, we have to be taking care of all faculty and students.”