California State University and its faculty union jointly announced Thursday that they have reached a tentative agreement in their months-long standoff over salaries.
CSU Chancellor Timothy White and representatives from the California Faculty Association plan to announce the terms of the deal Friday morning, averting a massive strike of teaching staff that was set to begin next week.
Both the university and the faculty association – which represents approximately 25,000 professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches across CSU’s 23 campuses – declined to discuss details of the agreement, citing a 48-hour media blackout they adopted Wednesday as negotiations intensified.
The deal must still be ratified by union members and the CSU board of trustees, which next will meet in late May. In 2014, they agreed to increase overall instructor compensation by 3 percent.
The faculty has been ratcheting up the pressure on CSU for more than a year, seeking a 5 percent raise for the 2015-16 academic year, on top of 2.65 percent “step increases” for thousands at the lower end of the pay rank.
Last spring the union released a series of reports making the case that its members lost purchasing power over the past decade as salaries remained largely stagnant during the economic recession and the university shifted money to administrative and other spending priorities. In May, it voted to reopen its contract, rejecting a 2 percent pay hike offered to all CSU employees as “insultingly low.”
The university has maintained that it cannot afford such a significant increase. Because of me-too contract agreements with other staff unions, CSU said the 5 percent raise would cost $110 million annually, three times what it budgeted for when it received an additional $217 million from the state last June.
“It’s not a question of desire; it’s a question of the ability to do so. And I’m not going to spend money I don’t have,” White told The Sacramento Bee last week. “We have to live within our means.”
But the prospect of an instructor walkout – for five days across the entire system, which the union touted as the largest higher-education strike in U.S. history – raised the stakes considerably. CSU faculty previously held a strike only once, in 2011, picketing for one day on two campuses to protest budget cuts.
An independent fact-finder report released late last month that sided largely with the faculty brought both sides back to the negotiating table.
According to data from CSU and the California Faculty Association, there are nearly 10,000 tenured or tenure-track professors in the system making an average of about $84,000 per year. But lower-paid lecturers, many of whom are only part-time, now comprise more than half the teaching staff in the system. They receive an average rate per-class equivalent to a $50,645 salary.