Capitol Alert

California State University faculty authorize strike

Robert Crawford, a math learning skills teacher at Sacramento State, gives lecturer Lois Boulgarides his vote as the California Faculty Association begins a strike authorization vote on Oct. 20, 2015.
Robert Crawford, a math learning skills teacher at Sacramento State, gives lecturer Lois Boulgarides his vote as the California Faculty Association begins a strike authorization vote on Oct. 20, 2015. lsterling@sacbee.com

Amid a contract dispute, the California State University faculty union announced Wednesday that it has overwhelmingly authorized a strike for the fourth time in eight years.

More than 94 percent of participants in a 10-day vote gave the California Faculty Association permission to call a strike across the 23-campus system if it fails to reach an agreement on salaries for the 2015-16 academic year. The union – which represents approximately 25,000 CSU professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches – is currently taking part in a fact-finding arbitration process with university officials.

“The faculty are angry and justifiably so,” faculty association President Jennifer Eagan said during a press conference at San Jose State University. “Our employer has decided what the faculty is worth, and they have decided that we’re not worth that much to them.”

Faculty, which received small or no pay increases over much of the last decade as the economic recession decimated the university’s budget, began agitating for a significant raise this spring. In a series of reports, it made the case that the university 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.

When CSU offered an across-the-board raise of 2 percent to employees this year, including 30 of its top officials, the faculty association rejected that offer as “insulting” and “way too low.” It is seeking a 5 percent compensation hike, with additional 2.65 percent increase for about 12,000 members of the union who are at the lower end of their pay rank, a plan the university says would cost three times as much and take up half of the $217 million funding increase it received in this year’s state budget.

The faculty association previously authorized strikes during contract negotiations in 2007 and 2012, before settling with management, and it conducted a one-day strike at two campuses in 2011 to protest budget cuts. Union leaders defended the tactic as necessary because of the university’s “intransigence” in offering raises comparable to their peers in the University of California and community college systems.

“We have a faculty that really feels uniquely disrespected,” Eagan said. “The recession is over. ... Now is the time for us to be able to catch up.”

In a statement, CSU spokeswoman Toni Molle said the strike vote was “not unexpected.”

“The strike authorization vote has now become a routine part of CFA’s post-impasse negotiation strategy,” Molle said. “The CSU remains committed to the collective bargaining process and reaching a negotiated agreement with the CFA.”

As the bargaining process, which began in May, is still ongoing, a strike could not be called before January. Fact-finding hearings are set for Nov. 23 and Dec. 7.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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