Photos by Keeley Smith.
They came by the hundreds, marching in red behind a police motorcade along Ocean Boulevard in downtown Long Beach.
They chanted “fight for five!” in endless succession, waving signs and smiling into the camera cheerfully.
They want a five percent raise, they said, waving a giant puppet of a professor behind a sign that read “EDUCATE STUDENTS, HONOR FACULTY, ELEVATE CALIFORNIA.”
California Faculty Association (CFA) leaders estimated that over 1,000 California State University (CSU) faculty, as well as friends and students, from the 23 campuses across the state, gathered in downtown Long Beach today in hopes of influencing budget negotiations between the CSU Board of Trustees and CFA representatives.
The CSU Board of Trustees began their regularly scheduled monthly meeting at 9:30AM today.
“We are fact-finding right now,” Cal State University Long Beach (CSULB) Classics Professor and union chapter president Douglas Domingo Forasté said, standing in the park next to CSU Headquarters on 401 Golden Shore, where the march ended. “We know the university has the money. They’ve never denied they have the money. What they say is, we have other priorities.”
As previously reported, the CFA and the CSU system Chancellor’s Office are in mediation over salary arrangements for 2015-2016, and the Chancellor’s Office has rejected a five percent General Salary Increase (GSI) and 2.65 Service Salary Increase (SSI) for eligible faculty. The faculty rejected a two percent salary increase offered by the CSU Chancellor’s Office last October.
The march was planned after the CFA voted overwhelming last month to authorize a strike against the California State University (CSU) system in a vote that took place across the system’s campuses.
"CFA faculty and their supporters have every right to present their side of the issues to the Board of Trustees and are welcomed and encouraged to do so," said CSU Director of Public Affairs Toni Molle. "This is part of the process."
Faculty, students and community members demonstrated outside of the Chancellor's Office and others addressed the Board during the public comment sessions.
Today’s march began at Broadway and Long Beach Boulevard, meandering onto Ocean Boulevard and onto Golden Shore Road, before ending in the park adjacent to the CSU Chancellor’s Office building. Forasté estimated over 125 CSULB faculty were in attendance.
“I’m so proud of my labor union,” CFA President Jennifer Eagan yelled into the crowd. “The CSU is the people’s university. The folks who work in this building don’t teach any students. The folks in this building think this is their university. Oh no. You know what comes next.”
She led the crowd in chanting, “Whose university? Our university!” over and over again.
The list of speakers at the rally, scheduled to run until 3:00PM, included House Speaker Tony Atkins (D-San Diego), state assemblymembers Anthony Rendon (D-Long Beach) and Patrick O’ Donnell (D-Long Beach), as well as labor union and faculty leaders from across the state. The state legislators appeared eager to lend their solidarity and support to the faculty union.
“To those of who that were inside today, making your voices heard, I want to say thank you,” said Atkins. “You underscore what needs to be happen.”
“You know, we all know, that your clothing bills have risen by more than five percent, your rent have risen by more than five percent. All of your daily expenses have risen by more than five percent over the past five years,” said Rendon, who received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Cal State Fullerton.
“You—each and every one of you—including that guy who gave me a C-,” Rendon said, gesturing to an old professor in the crowd, “each and every one of you deserve to get a raise of more than five percent.
A few CSULB students were also sprinkled among the faculty members and allies in the crowd. Recent CSULB alumnus Kevin Clinton (Sociology, class of 2015), said he was there in large part to show “solidarity” with the faculty, especially lecturers.
“The part-time faculty situation is atrocious right now,” Clinton said, referring to the 60% of CSU faculty who are part-time, despite the fact that "most," according to the CFA, want to work full-time.
The average salary for all faculty, including tenure-line instructors and lecturers is $45,000 a year, the CFA asserts, in contrast to the six figure salaries most presidents make. On the CFA's earnings distribution for all faculty, the organization shows 45 percent of all faculty making less than $40,000 annually, with the average lecturer—lecturers making up 60% of the faculty—making $24,000 a year.
The CSU contends these numbers are innacurate. According to Molle, the average salaries for faculty are as follows:
- Full Professor: $96,064
- All Tenure-Track Faculty: $86,314
- Average Full-Time Lecturer: $59,333
Last month, Molle said negotiations have continued in good faith, and that the two percent raise was offered to faculty as part of a “balanced approach to compensation,” which includes addressing a funding gap of $68.9 million and addressing all priorities for student success.
“Compensation remains a top priority,” said Molle. “That’s why faculty were the only group of employees to receive salary increases and tenure-track salary promotions during the recession years. A strike is not in the best interest of CSU students.”
"We've lost purchasing power," said Molly Talcott, an associate professor at CSU Los Angeles in a previous interview. The interview came days after the CSU Board of Trustees approved a two percent raise for CSU Chancellor Timothy White and the university system’s presidents. She pointed to years of salary freezes that she says have placed faculty salaries below the cost of living. "We've actually slid backwards[...] Two percent sounds fair and equal for all, but two percent of a $40,000 salary is a lot different. It doesn't even show up in your paycheck."
“When you essentially cut salaries, you drive out good faculty,” Forasté said on October 16.