California State University faculty announced Wednesday that they have approved a measure to give their union leaders the power to authorize a strike next fall that could delay the beginning of school for thousands of students across the 23-campus university system.
At a noon press conference at CSU Long Beach, the California Faculty Association announced that faculty had approved the measure by 95 percent of those who voted from April 16 through April 27. The faculty union and CSU administrators have been at odds over contract negotiations since June 2010.
"The faculty have had enough," said Lillian Tiaz, president of the California Faculty Association.
"The message to Chancellor (Charles B.) Reed is absolutely clear: The California State University faculty have run out of patience."
The faculty association's board of directors will decide whether to hold a "rolling" strike in the fall if the legal process of negotiations ends with no resolution.
The two sides still need to go through the process of fact-finding, in which an independent mediator would look at both sides and recommend a solution.
About 70 percent of the 12,501 eligible faculty members voted in the election, union officials said at the conference.
The union wants a 1 percent raise, but CSU administrators have said this is not feasible considering that the system has lost $970 million in state funding since 2008.
Faculty members also want smaller class sizes, a guarantee of academic freedom and more job security for temporary faculty. Part-time lecturers in the CSU system now are given automatic three-year contracts to work after they have lectured for six years. Administrators want the contract to be contingent on a review of performance. Administrators also want to scale back the amount the system pays for faculty taking time off to do union work. But the union has taken issue with this proposal.
Mike Uhlenkamp, a CSU spokesman, said the faculty union and the university system are scheduled to resume talks today and Friday over the contract.
"Our point of view is that this is all very premature," he said. "We could possible have a resolution by (today) or Friday."
Also, about a dozen CSU students began a hunger strike Wednesday that they say will last until administrators freeze tuition, cut campus presidential benefits and comply with other demands.
The students are peeved about campus presidents who receive six-figure salaries and car and housing allowances, while student tuition has been raised and faculty and courses have been cut in recent years.