Capitol Alert

California State University faculty union calls strike vote

Dr. Sarah Strand, a part-time lecturer at Sacramento State, teaches a course in the statistics of psychology on Jan. 28, 2015.
Dr. Sarah Strand, a part-time lecturer at Sacramento State, teaches a course in the statistics of psychology on Jan. 28, 2015. The Sacramento Bee file

Dissatisfied with a proposed 2 percent raise, the California State University faculty union has scheduled a vote next month to authorize a strike across the 23-campus system.

The California Faculty Association, which represents about 25,000 CSU professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors and athletic coaches, is currently in mediation with the university over salaries for the 2015-16 academic year. The union announced Thursday that it would conduct a 10-day vote beginning Oct. 19 on potential actions, including a strike, should they fail to reach an agreement.

“We’ve done it before, we know how to do it and we’re prepared to,” said Kevin Wehr, an associate vice president of the faculty association.

Faculty are seeking a 5 percent compensation hike, with additional 2.65 percent increases for about 12,000 members of the union who are at the lower end of their pay rank. CSU authorized an across-the-board 2 percent raise for employees, including 30 of its top executives, earlier this year, but the faculty association rejected that offer as “insulting” and “way too low.”

In a series of reports, the union argued that CSU has been underfunding its teaching staff for years – shifting priorities to administrative spending and hiring, turning to part-time lecturers to cut costs, and providing salaries that have not kept up with inflation. A 3 percent pay increase last year was the first that most faculty had seen since 2008, Wehr added.

He said the faculty association does not expect the salary dispute will be resolved through mediation, so the vote is a matter of preparation. In 2007, the union authorized a strike during negotiations for a new contract, but ultimately settled. A one-day strike on two campuses followed in 2011 to protest cuts during the recession.

Faculty have their eyes on the $217 million funding increase that CSU received in this year’s budget, which they argue could cover both better pay for instructors and expanded access for students.

“The administration has never made the argument that they can’t afford it,” Wehr said.

In a statement, CSU director of public affairs Toni Molle said $65.5 million of the new state funding had already been appropriated for salary improvements, the majority of that for faculty.

“We are doing what we can, with finite resources, to address employee compensation while maintaining our commitment to other mission-central priorities that support student success and completion,” she said. “A balanced approach to compensation is vital.”

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff