California Faculty Association members took to the microphones to confront the CSU Board of Trustees about perceived wrongdoings that have come in the course of recent budget negotiations at a California State University Board of Trustees meeting held at the CSU Chancellor’s office Tuesday morning.
This meeting was the last before the start date of CFA’s currently planned 23-campus faculty strike, April 13-15 and 18-19. If the strike lasts all five days, it will become the largest and longest academic strike of four-year college faculty in American history.
At the start of the meeting, the Board opened the floor for comments and questions from CFA before giving a formal statement from the CSU. There was no discussion between the Board and members, and CSU’s pre-written final statement did not directly reference anything brought to the floor from members.
CFA President Jennifer Eagan warned the CSU trustees that if a settlement had not been reached by April 20 there will be “more to come.”
Members repeated that while they do not enjoy the idea or act of striking, they feel as though it is the only way to reach a satisfactory agreement and have their efforts and values as employees recognized.
“The maintenance on your house has languished for a long time with stagnant and uneven salaries, an increasing dependence on a precarious faculty workforce and inattention to how faculty are treated affects students,” Eagan said. “This inattention predates the recession, and certainly predates your position as Chancellor. However, it’s your house now. Your house is on fire, please pay attention. Stop pulling the covers over your head and ignoring the red shirts and the anger you face in every encounter with faculty.”
In an emailed statement, CSU Director of Public Affairs Toni Molle reaffirmed the financial dedications the system has already made to faculty over the course of the last three years.
“The CSU values faculty and staff and has demonstrated its strong commitment to compensation by investing $121.6 million in faculty compensation since 2013,” she said in an email. “The CFA’s 6.2% funding proposal for this academic year is $69.3 million more than what was budgeted for and approved by the Legislature.”
Even still, present faculty questioned CSU Chancellor Timothy White’s “true leadership” and “responsibility” to state employees. Many shouted a number of expletives at the Board while trustees and chairs discussed the current state of the budget and contract.
Chancellor White removed himself from the collective bargaining process after it began last spring in an attempt to let the proceedings move forward with less conflict, but CFA members said they felt slighted by his lack of personal investment in the case.
After the public comments, CSU officials read a formal statement summarizing their stances and positions in the negotiation.
According to the statement, the fiscal year’s operating budget is fully committed, meaning that all financial actions since July have been in accordance with the current allocation for faculty salaries.
CFA filed an unfair labor practice charge against CSU in November 2015 for bringing the budget to the legislature and governor before negotiating the terms of the budget with unions, which violates law, they argue, and constitutes bargaining in bad faith.
There have been disputes over financial figures between CFA and CSU throughout the collective bargaining process, but the upcoming fact-finding report aims to clarify the numbers.
After the report is released, both CFA and CSU will enter into a 10-day “quiet period” to review the report before making last, best and final offers to see if a last-minute settlement can be reached before the strike.
As time goes on, and a potential strike draws closer, the concept becomes less abstract and more of a reality to CSULB students.
“The faculty isn’t asking for a dramatic increase, only a fair one – one that they deserve,” said senior Kristine Banuelos, a women, gender and sexuality studies major . “It’s unfortunate that it had to lead to a [probable] strike and basically a week off from classes. That’s a week behind we are with the curriculum. That’s a week lost that they planned for on their unpaid time.”
Some students are looking less at the long-term effects of the strike on faculty, and more into the short-term effect on those trying to complete classes. Jojo Fok, a senior Kinesiology major, is one such student.
“It’s not fair to us students who pay tuition to not have class for five days, so I think the administration should take into consideration their student body,” Fok said.
Toni Moelle said in the aforementioned email that during the strike, campuses will remain open and services will still be available to students without disruption.