CSU Faculty to Take Up Strike Vote Beginning Monday

File photo. 

The California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) faculty—along with California State University (CSU) faculty at campuses statewide—will begin to participate Monday in a vote that could authorize a system-wide faculty strike, the California Faculty Association announced today

The vote comes in response to what they claim are years of refusal on behalf of the CSU Chancellor’s Office to lift faculty salaries to a living wage.

“After years of stagnant faculty wages, the faculty on our public university campuses are angry and we are ready for this strike vote,” CFA President Jennifer Eagan said in a statement. “We all know that the chancellor’s two percent (pay raise offer) is simply not enough to make teaching in the CSU sustainable.”

The union announced the vote on October 1, after mediation over salary arrangements for the 2015-2016 school year stalled. The vote to authorize the strike will commence at 9:00AM Monday, and faculty members have until 5:00PM on October 28 to vote.

According to releases issued Wednesday and on September 24, the CFA and the California State University (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.

“We’ve lost purchasing power,” said Molly Talcott, an associate professor at CSU Los Angeles in a previous interview. 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,” said CSULB Classics Professor and union chapter president Douglas Domingo Forasté.

CSU Director of Public Affairs Toni 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.

According to Molle, these priorities include employee compensation, funded enrollment growth, the hiring of new faculty, facility improvements and repairs, technology upgrades, and investing in student services and programs that support degree completion.

“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.”

Molle said that the CSU system has, in the last two years, invested $129.6 million in compensation with $65.5 million dollars of that going to faculty.

“A strike is not in the best interest of CSU students,” said Molle.

Domingo Forasté said years of salary freezes and the high number of lecturers teaching classes at CSULB means that many instructors at CSULB are often finding a way to make ends meet or pay off their loans, rather than focusing all of their time on helping students. Many of these adjunct faculty and lecturers make “$40,000 after teaching for 20 years—$50,000 if they are lucky,” according to Domingo Forasté.

If the faculty votes to authorize a strike, another vote would be required to effectively strike. If this strike becomes a reality, it would be just the second time the faculty has picketed in the union’s 30-year history.

“We’ve only gone on strike once, in 2011,” said Domingo Forasté. He expected close to 90 percent of faculty to vote in favor of a strike. “I personally will be voting yes [to authorize the strike]. I hope that the Chancellor’s Office sees this as a mark of our determination.”

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