CSU is offering a 2 percent faculty pay increase. Members of the California Faculty Association have already voted, by an overwhelming 94 percent, to authorize a strike if the union is unable to reach a contract agreement for teachers at the 23-campus system.
Inside the Board of Trustees meeting, Art Pulaski, secretary-treasurer of the California Federation of Labor, said he was supporting the union’s call for a 5 percent pay increase for faculty members, and he will back them if they need to “stop, put down their pens and pads and paper and get the attention they need” through a strike.
“We support you making a decent wage and we are here to join in the Fight for Five,” Pulaski said, referring to the push for the 5 percent salary increase.
Lori Lamb, CSU vice chancellor for Human Relations, said compensation issues are and have been a priority for the system. She said a 5 percent increase rather than a 2 percent increase would create a $68.9 million funding gap, which could balloon to $107.2 million when other labor unions ask for the same increase.
According to the CSU, faculty members were the only group of employees to receive salary increases and tenure-track salary promotions during the recession years.
Most everyone who spoke at the meeting and during the rally agreed that a strike would not be in the best interests of students, but faculty members remained steadfast that they will strike if necessary.
Outside the meeting, a mob of faculty members and their allies forced street closures as they marched through downtown Long Beach and hosted a rally on the lawn outside the CSU Chancellor’s Office. They wore red T-shirts with the slogan, “I don’t want to strike but I will,” and carried a variety of strongly worded signs, including one of a vulture carrying a bag of money and many variations of the CFA’s “Fight for Five” message.
They chanted together, “Whose university? Our university!”
Cal State Los Angeles faculty member Melina Abdullah said she has been a teacher for 13 years and needs a raise. She is among about half of the university system’s 25,000 faculty who are members of the CFA.
“We are not going to take that anymore,” Abdullah said.
Kevin Wehr, chairman of the CFA bargaining team, said the march and rally demonstrates the strength of the faculty’s resolve on the issue, noting that the university system only works because the faculty works.
“We don’t want to strike, but we can and we will,” Wehr said. “Your stubbornness has brought us to this place. … It’s time to give back to those who labor in the trenches. You have to invest in those who make the students succeed: the faculty and staff.”
CFA President Jennifer Eagan, a professor at Cal State East Bay, told City News Service a strike vote isn’t taken lightly, especially from faculty who have invested so much in their students.
“The faculty are angry and justifiably so,” she said, noting that the hiring of instructors has not kept up with the increase in student enrollment, and that CSU spending on instruction has decreased.
Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, stressed that more discussion are planned, and Tuesday’s actions were not the end of the discussion. Fact- finding hearings are the next step in the impasse procedure and are scheduled for Nov. 23 and Dec. 7.
Union officials said a strike, if it happens, wouldn’t take place until next year, because faculty members are not allowed to stage a walkout until after the fact-finding process is completed.
—City News Service
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