Capitol Alert

AM Alert: California State University faculty begins strike authorization vote

Sacramento State faculty, who had been working without a contract for twenty months at the time, held a rally threatening to strike on Jan. 29, 2007.
Sacramento State faculty, who had been working without a contract for twenty months at the time, held a rally threatening to strike on Jan. 29, 2007. The Sacramento Bee file

There’s dissatisfaction brewing at California’s public universities.

After arguing for months that its members are underpaid and need a significant salary bump to make up for years of stagnation, the California State University faculty union and CSU management failed to reach an agreement last week on a new contract.

While the university offered 2 percent raises to all employees this year, the California Faculty Association wants a 5 percent compensation hike for its members, with additional 2.65 percent boosts for those at the lower end of their pay ranks. The CSU administration rejected that plan, which would cost about $102 million, for taking up too much of the budget increase it just secured from the state.

The negotiation is now set to enter a fact-finding phase, but the faculty may be gearing up for something bigger: Today marks the start of a 10-day union vote on potential actions, including a strike, should the contract talks continue to falter. Faculty on two campuses held a one-day strike in 2011 to protest recession-era cuts, and the faculty authorized a strike during its 2007 contract negotiations, but ultimately settled.

Over in the University of California system, many undocumented students are not happy with how they’ve been treated. They will hold a press conference outside the UC Office of the President in Oakland at 10 a.m. to voice concerns that President Janet Napolitano has been ignoring their needs.

Napolitano’s appointment to head UC two years ago was highly controversial, and drew prolonged protests from immigrant rights activists who objected to the record number of deportations she oversaw as U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security. She has struggled to bridge that divide, even as she has backed new initiatives like a loan program for undocumented students.

CONTROVERSIAL COVERAGE: Building on special allocations in recent budgets, lawmakers this year passed SB 145 to lock in funding to stabilize the Robert F. Kennedy Farm Workers Medical Plan, a signature accomplishment of legendary activist Cesar Chavez that was the first health insurance plan for agricultural laborers. Funded by workers and their employers, the plan was deemed insufficient under the federal Affordable Care Act in 2013 because it limits annual benefits to $70,000. Democratic lawmakers stepped in with a proposal that will provide up to $3 million annually for the next five years to fund payouts above that cap. The law was criticized by Republicans as a handout to the United Farm Workers union – other organizations that provide health insurance to laborers have shouldered the higher costs of Affordable Care Act compliance themselves – but it passed easily along partisan lines. State Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, who authored the late-emerging measure, will join with UFW to celebrate its passage, 11 a.m. at the Salud Clinic in West Sacramento.

CITIZENS UNITED: Fresh off his major legislative victory to automatically register Californians to vote through the Department of Motor Vehicles, Secretary of State Alex Padilla will welcome dozens of potential beneficiaries to the ranks of eligible voters. He delivers the keynote address at a naturalization ceremony for 100 new citizens, 10 a.m. at the Secretary of State’s Office on 11th Street.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblymen Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, who turns 30 today, and Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, who is 41.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff