Cal State University dispute-Time to strike?

Here at Speak Out California, we’ve been closely following the dispute between the California State University Administration and its faculty, represented by the California Faculty Association (CFA). The Administration has been quick and generous to give itself hefty raises and increased benefits (all approved by its overseeing organization, of course), but has been worse than Scrooge when it comes to its all-important faculty.
With the help of Speak Out California Board member, R. Stanley Oden, Associate Professor at Cal State Sacramento, we’ve been able to provide you with updates on the progress, or lack thereof, in the salary dispute that seems to be headed toward a strike call in the near future.
At present, the CFA is trying to achieve its reasonable and arguably modest efforts to bring salaries for its members closer to parity with other similar institutions of higher education through normal channels. Speak Out California welcomes your comments or suggestions on the situation and will be looking at what can be done to help resolve this serious impasse.

In the meantime, here is Professor Oden’s latest update on the stalement and the current efforts to resolve it and prepare for a possible labor strike.

The California Faculty Association with its twenty-three chapters across the state is moving toward a strike vote in the first week of March, 2007. The union is pushed to this vote based on the lack of movement by the Chancellor and the CSU administration negotiating team. Presently, the CFA and CSU administration is involved in a fact-finding process where both sides present their positions on their contract proposals to a fact-finder agreed upon by both sides. The fact-finder produces a report on the results of the fact-finding process. This report will be coming out in early March and CFA believes, based on the rhetoric coming from the CSU administration, that not much will come out of this process to end the stalemate.
In the meantime, on the twenty-three campuses, the CFA has been very active in establishing campus organizing committees whose tasks have been to get faculty members to sign a strike vote commitment card that will indicate the level of faculty support for a strike, and preparing for a strike vote. Thousands of commitment cards have been signed and this gives great hope to the union that a successful strike vote will result from these organizing efforts.
A major front now being pushed by the union is directed toward the California State legislature. There has been support coming from the legislature and that support is building. Just recently, on February 9, state legislators renewed their request for “an audit of the CSU administration’s executive compensation policies and agreements” by sending a letter to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. This letter was from Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and Assembly members Lori Saldana and Anthony Portantino, who chairs the Assembly Committee on Higher Education. Additionally, CFA is conducting CFA Legislative District Lobby Days, February 23 and March 2, to inform state legislators on the status of contract negotiations and gain support for the contract offer by the CFA. Additional support has come from the Central Labor Councils across the state as well as from the Los Angeles County Democratic party.
The contract negotiations are hinged on the money issues that affect faculty members’ economic well -being. The CSU administration has offered a bogus 24% package which includes a 3% “discretionary compensation” clause, which is actually a ruse for merit pay. This is something that the union has rejected in previous contract negotiations as well as in these contract negotiations, as a divide and rule tactic in which college administrators can play favorites in granting merit increases. Other aspects of the CSU administration offer are predicated on a 1% increase over three years that was to be a part of the governor’s budget. But guess what, that 1% was not in the governor’s budget so it is really nonexistent. Bottom line, the CSU offer over three years dwindles down to a 12% increase in pay. That amount of money will place faculty further behind, based on inflation and based on salaries given to faculty members at comparable universities. The CFA offer keeps up with inflation by proposing about 6% salary increase over the next four years. This includes general salary increases of 18%, service step increases of 3.75%, an equity program to bring up the salaries of junior faculty members, and 1.5% for post-promotion increases. The CFA offer is a real 25.25% wage increase over a four year period. Presently, the average salary for CSU faculty is several thousands of dollars less compared to community college faculty. A major concern is the lack of salary increase for assistant professors who have been hired in the last six years. The salaries for most of these junior faculty members have increased only by a one-time 3.5% increase. Many of these faculty members are now faced with salary inversion, with newer junior faculty members being hired in with several thousand dollars difference. This “experience penalty” is forcing some junior faculty members to look elsewhere for employment and has had a deleterious effect on faculty morale. There are also other issues regarding teaching workload, and lecturer teaching demands.
The CFA is prepared to call for a two day-rolling strike, sometime in the near future, and progressives in California need to rally around the CFA contract demands. If the CFA strikes it will be the largest public higher education institution strike in the history of the state and the country. There is no room for failure. Much is at stake in terms of public employee collective bargaining. The CFA needs much community support to apply pressure to Chancellor Charles Reed and the CSU Board of Trustees to settle this labor dispute. Speak Out California will keep Speak Out California subscribers fully informed on the progress of this major labor battle. Please write and contact your state legislator and let them know that this labor impasse is bad for the CSU faculty and bad for California.