About 1,000 faculty and staffers from the 23 California State University campuses, as well as their supporters, rallied outside the CSU chancellor’s office on Tuesday, Nov. 7, demanding a fair contract and lighter workloads to interact more with students.
The rally came in the wake of last week’s vote to approve a strike for more than 29,000 union members.
A strike is not assured and the CSU said in a previous statement that it remains committed to agreeing to a deal with the labor union.
The noisy protest, organized by the California Faculty Association, took place from 10 a.m. to noon outside the Glenn S. Dumke Auditorium in Long Beach, where the CSU Board of Trustees gathered to discuss issues related to labor negotiations, education policy and the university system’s finances.
California Faculty Association representatives brought their labor proposals to CSU Chancellor Mildred Garcia at the start of the monthly gathering. The union represents full-time faculty, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches at the largest public university system in the nation.
During the protest, hundreds of union members chanted that they were willing to shut the CSU campuses down if a list of demands, including a 12% salary increase starting this year, is not met.
Gregory “Chris” Brown, a criminal justice professor and CFA chapter president at Cal State Fullerton, said the issue is important because they are asking administrators to raise the floor for the lowest-paid teachers.
“This is a reopener and they are trying to offer us a 4% wage hike,” Brown said. “We know that would be like a pay cut and we are not going to accept that.”
Brown underscored better salaries, including a raise of up to $10,000 for low-paid full-time teachers, would be reflected in better educational conditions across the system.
The dispute began when the CFA proposed a salary bump of 12% in the current fiscal year, only to be met with the CSU’s counter proposal of 12% over three years, with a 4% increase for fiscal year 2023-24.
CFA refused the counter, triggering another CSU offer to improve wages by 5% in the current fiscal year.
Another item of discrepancy is the union seeking raises for the lowest-paid faculty.
CFA negotiators are seeking wage rises of $5,000 to $10,000, plus the 12% general salary increase; the CSU offered a 5% salary bump in line to match its yearly salary offer.
Union members also want more professional staffers to offer mental health counseling to students, expanded parental leave, accessible lactation and milk storage spaces for faculty, inclusive restrooms and changing rooms for all people regardless of gender identity, and safety measures for faculty interacting with police on campuses.
“CFA members are emphatic that low pay, growing workloads and systemic inequalities are not sustainable,” a CFA statement said. “CSU management needs to invest their money where it matters, the people and programs with direct impact on student learning and success.”
The protest came after 95% of union members voted last week to authorize a strike if a resolution were not reached within 10 days of issuance of a report from an independent fact-finder tasked with making recommendations following discussions with both parties.
“The CSU remains committed to the collective bargaining process,” a previous CSU statement said, “and reaching a negotiated agreement with the CFA as we have done with five of our other employee unions in recent weeks.”
The report’s conclusions, expected to be issued around Nov. 19, will be based on a series of meetings CSU and CFA representatives had with the independent fact-finder the last week of October.
Such recommendations are not binding and both parties will have 10 days to review the report before it becomes public, CSU said in a statement this week.
The CSU and CFA may continue negotiating during this period and if differences persist after the 10-day “quiet period,” CSU management may unilaterally phase in its pre-impasse proposals and CFA members may legally strike.
The CSU and CFA have been at the bargaining table for five months, but the stalemate has continued despite efforts by a state-appointed mediator and the fact-finding panel.
The university system would have to incur nearly $380 million in additional costs to meet the union’s demands, compared to $133.8 million if the CSU’s proposals were accepted, according to a CSU bargaing estimate.
“The vote to authorize a strike gives CFA leadership the authority to initiate a strike or other concerted activities,” this week’s CSU statement said, “should CSU and CFA be unable to reach agreement at the end of the collective bargaining dispute resolution process.”
Similar authorizations have not led to a strike before because the parties have reached an agreement. If the CFA members go on strike, all campuses would remain open, with plans to counter the disruptions, according to the CSU statement.
“The CSU faculty is the lifeblood of the university,” said Kipp Mueller, a labor attorney and a candidate running to represent California’s 23rd Senate District, who attended the protest. “And the university is going to learn that lesson one way of another.”