California Faculty Association Rally Could Preview Strikes at Cal State University Campuses

Next week’s California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees’ meeting will have a larger than normal audience, as over one thousand protesters are expected to march and demonstrate outside in support of the California Faculty Association’s (CFA) push for increased wages.

CFA members from Humboldt to San Diego are expected to take part in the day-long event that is scheduled to begin before the board meeting, which will commence at 9:30AM, while separate viewing parties at member campuses will be held for students and faculty who weren’t able to make the trip.

The group is planning a march that will snake through downtown Long Beach before ending at the chancellor’s office. The event will conclude when participants “preview” what a picket line might look like if the the CFA does in fact go on strike.

“Our friends around the state turn to the CSU to educate their children and grandchildren and understand the need to have a system that prepares students for success in this state for the rest of their lives,” CFA President Jennifer Eagan said in a statement this week. “The faculty appreciates the support and expects a strong turnout next week.”

Since contract negotiations started in May 2014, the CFA has pushed for a five percent increase in general salaries, as well as a 2.65 Service Salary Increase (SSI) for eligible faculty members. The CFA has since rejected an offer that would’ve provided a flat two percent salary increase, leaving negotiations at a standstill.

Last week, the CFA announced that it had voted nearly unanimously to authorize a strike against the CSU, one could happen by January at the earliest.

The union, which represents over 26,000 faculty, professors, lecturers and coaches in the state’s largest university system, is expecting members from all 23 CSU campuses as well as allies in the form of students and other union workers to turn out to support the “Fight for Five.” Eagan, along with other CFA officials, will speak inside Tuesday’s board of trustees meeting where they’re expected to re-address ongoing concerns of faculty pay, hiring patterns and the compensation of CSU executives among other topics.

According to a CFA representative, the numbers being presented by the CSU are muddled by presenting only part of the picture. They said that the average salary number being presented to the public, one that exceeds $90,000 annually, represents that of a “top rank” professor position that would typically have approximately 20-25 years teaching experience. However, full-time employees represent only about 40 percent of CSU faculty, a number that has remained relatively static as the CSU has begun to hire more part-time faculty members in what the CFA has classified as a “troubling” pattern of hiring.

When taking into account the other 60 percent of the faculty that are part-time employees of the CSU, the average salary drops closer to about $50,000 annually, as those employees make “radically less” than full-time, tenured professors. The vote to approve a potential strike and planned protest during Tuesday’s meeting comes on the heels of the CSU Board of Trustees voting in July to raise the pay for CSU Chancellor Timothy White and all 23 presidents of the member schools.

With the July vote, White’s salary jumped to over $420,000 annually and the average salary of the the 23 school presidents is now over $312,000 annually.

CSU Chancellor’s Office Public Affairs Director Toni Molle told the Post in July that the increase in executive salaries was merely part of a system-wide pay raise for all employees of two percent. Molle also said that the gap between the CSU budget and the proposals from the faculty’s union is about $68.9 million and that the two percent raise represented a “balanced approach to compensation.” However, CFA representatives and professors in the CSU system have argued that the pay raises for faculty have not kept pace with the rate of inflation and also point out that a two percent increase to a $300,000 salary is a lot different to one that is just a fraction of that.

“The CFA feels that the top executives have gotten a lot in recent years, and the focus needs to be more on the faculty and staff who teach the students,” said CFA spokesperson Alice Sunshine after the July vote.

There are two scheduled fact-finding meetings scheduled for the end of this month and early December, where both the CSU and the CFA will have an opportunity to present their case to a third-party arbitrator. After both sides have presented their case, a public report will be compiled and the chancellor could have an opportunity to unilaterally offer a new contract and the CFA could also opt to strike. However, compiling the report could take months, making any potential strike less imminent.

Both sides seem to agree that strike is not in the best interest of the students, especially if it’s a prolonged one. Even if the faculty does end up striking in the absence of a compromise, there is no indication of what that might look like.

A CFA representative said It could be a system-wide strike with faculty at all 23 campuses striking on the same day, or it could be in the form daily strikes on different campuses on different days to alleviate the impact on students.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.