Campus, CSU, News

CSU faculty members authorize strike

By: Anthony Orrico and Carlos Yakimowich

The California Faculty Association authorized a strike on Monday, with 95% of members supporting taking job action or striking.

The union is still in the statutory process, which they must complete under California state law before taking any kind of job action. This new labor movement is potentially going to affect the largest university system in the country.

As of right now the CFA, Teamsters 2010 and the Academic Professionals of California (APC) have yet to reach a deal on new labor contracts.

CFA represents about 29,000 professors and lecturers within the CSU system, while Teamsters 2010 represent about 1,100 skilled trade workers and the ACP represent about 3,000 professional support staff.

CFA, the largest of the CSU unions, held a strike authorization vote from Oct. 21-27, with members overwhelmingly supporting taking job action. The faculty union is still in the statutory process which they must complete before taking any job action.

“Our solidarity will win the best contract for our members, the students for whom we are dedicated and the entire CSU,” CFA President Charles Toombs said while announcing the vote results. “Thousands of members are joining together to confront years of frustration created by management neglect and the disinvestment in students. The vote is a clear sign that our just cause will not be denied.”

According to Toombs, the strike authorization vote does not mean the union will call a strike of any kind.

“Even if it is authorized, it doesn’t mean necessarily that we will go on strike. What it does do is signal to the CSU our willingness to take action at the end of the legal statutory process,” Toombs said

The CSU released a statement following the authorization vote:

“The CSU and CFA are still engaged in the bargaining process. This weekend, the two sides concluded meetings with an independent fact-finder, who will prepare a report of their findings and recommendations.”

“The recommendations are not binding, and after the report is issued (in about three weeks), the CSU and CFA will have 10 days to review the report before it becomes public. CFA and CSU may continue to meet and negotiate throughout this period. If after the 10-day “quiet” period, the parties have not reached agreement, CFA may then call for a strike.”

The faculty union is asking for, among other things, a 12% salary increase, pay equity and raising the floor for their lowest-paid faculty, expanding paid parental leave and manageable workloads that allow for more support and engagement with students.

The CSU’s last offer was a 5% salary increase for the next fiscal year.

The increase of 12% that the faculty is seeking is related to the rising cost of living and the desire to see improved working conditions and benefits, according to CFA.

“I think that union members are realizing very strongly that to secure the fair and equitable contracts that they must have, that they have to be prepared to take action. I mean, that’s just clear. It’s a different labor movement now,” Toombs said.

In a letter sent to the CSU community back in August, Interim Chancellor Jolene Koester said the 12% salary increase would cost $380 million in the first year of implementation alone.

“We are committed to doing everything we possibly can to support all of our employees, and we are hopeful that we can quickly come to an agreement and avoid significant negative impacts to our students and our workforce,” Koester said.

The California State University Employees Union, which represents around 16,000 CSU staff, reached a tentative labor agreement on Oct. 11.

According Toombs, the deal reached by CSUEU does not affect the CFA labor actions.

“Our position is that we have to do what we have to do for our members. And so we don’t really pay a lot of attention to what other unions have negotiated in terms of its impact and what we have to do,” Toombs said.

The proposed agreement would include a 5% over the next two academic years with retroactive pay for the 2023-2024.

President of the CSUEU Board of Directors Catherine Hutchinson has worked to get staff a 17% wage increase since 2022, including the 5% tentative increase during this current academic year

“Everyone is tired. Enough is enough,” Hutchinson said. “We’re not asking for million-dollar salaries; we’re asking for a livable wage that allows us to have one job.”

Hutchinson noted many staff members have been compelled to work two to three jobs, including weekends and work for ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft to get additional income to make ends meet.

Long Beach, Ca 9/12/2023 CFA members plan to rally outside the upcoming Board of Trustees meeting on Nov. 7 and 8
Long Beach, Ca 9/12/2023 CFA members plan to rally outside the upcoming Board of Trustees meeting on Nov. 7 and 8 Photo credit: Anthony Orrico

“There is no work-life-balance anymore. It’s, ‘I work to just make ends meet till the end of the month until the next paycheck comes in,’” Hutchinson said.

The CSUEU contract needs to be approved by both the CSU Board of Trustees and union membership. The board is expected to vote on the agreement at their next meeting on Nov. 7 and 8. Hutchinson said the process will be completed by Dec. 1.

If a CFA strike does occur, Hutchinson said the CSUEU would stand in solidarity with the CFA as well as honor their picket lines.

“It’s called a sympathy strike, so we’ll educate our members on how to support CFA without getting in trouble,” Hutchinson said.

Strikes aren’t something new to the country as of late. So far in 2023 the Screen Actors Guild, the American Federation of Film and Television Artists, the United Auto Workers (UAW), the Writers Guild of America, Southern California hotel workers and 85,000 Kaiser Permanente staff all have gone on strike.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, inflation has been higher in the last two years than at any point in the last decade, with it peaking 6.6% in August 2022. In 2022, the average inflation was 6.1%, and it’s on track to be 5.4% this year.

The average annual salary of a tenure track CFA member, according to a 2023 study done by the Mercer Group, was $108,800 during the period from Oct. 31, 2022, to July 1, 2023.

For lecturers, the average is $65,768 according to the study and librarians averaged $83,014. The current average salary for all employees represented by CSUEU is $45,000, according to Hutchinson.

“The 12% compensation that the faculty union [CFA] currently has on the table, plus other economic demands, would cost the CSU approximately $380 million in the first year alone,” Amy Bentley-Smith, Director of Strategic Communications and Public Affairs and CSU spokesperson, said via email.

“The CSU’s offer of 4% for each of the next three years is more fiscally prudent. Without more financial support from the state, a 12% recurring cost this year would undermine CSU’s fiscal stability and force our universities to make difficult and painful decisions regarding how to meet rapidly increasing operating costs and reallocate already limited financial resources,” Bentley-Smith said.

Edited on Nov. 1, 2023 to add an additional byline. 

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