CSU faculty prepare for mid-April strike if they don’t get a 5-percent pay increase

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CSU faculty prepare for mid-April strike if they don’t get a 5-percent pay increase

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The California Faculty Association is asking for a 5-percent general salary increase plus a service salary increase for all eligible faculty, which equates to a further 1.2-percent increase in faculty compensation costs, according to California State University system officials. The total cost of the CFA's proposal is $102.3 million.

Infographic by Denny Cristales | Signal Tribune

The future salary increases for faculty in the California State University (CSU) system will remain an unknown for at least a few months, but local students can rest assured that they will receive credit for coursework and even graduate, if educators in the state’s public university system strike in April for their desired 5-percent pay raise.

That reassurance came from Jane Close Conoley in a Feb. 18 emailed statement to all students and employees at Cal State University Long Beach (CSULB), where she serves as president.

“I fully respect the rights of faculty members to participate in the planned strike and/or other legal union actions,” Conoley wrote. “Be assured, however, that should a strike occur, the campus will operate as usual and all students, employees and guests can expect a safe learning and working environment. The strike should not interfere with students being able to complete their courses and graduate on time. Faculty who strike will generally arrange for assigned reading or other work if their classes are canceled.”

Although the California Faculty Association (CFA) has developed what it calls a “Fight for Five” proposal, encouraging a hold-out for that 5-percent increase, technically, the pay raise would exceed that amount. The CFA is asking for a 5-percent general salary increase plus a service salary increase for all eligible faculty, which equates to a further 1.2-percent increase in faculty compensation costs, according to CSU. The total cost of the CFA’s proposal is $102.3 million.

Salary is the only issue in dispute, as all other matters in the contract are settled between the parties in the current collective-bargaining agreement, according to the CSU, which has offered a 2-percent increase to the faculty compensation pool, which would cost an estimated $33 million.
“This 2-percent compensation pool increase was included as part of CSU’s 2015/16 budget request authorized and approved by the Board of Trustees— and enacted by the Legislature and governor,” states the CSU on its “Frequently Asked Questions” webpage about the possible strike. “The 2-percent increase is consistent with the amount negotiated with all other collective-bargaining units in the CSU, as well as what managers and executives received. However, if the CSU were to pay the 6.2-percent increase requested by the CFA, it would cost the CSU an additional $40.7 million in salary increases to other bargaining units because of ‘me too’ language in their agreements.”

Funding to cover this gap would have to come from cuts to other operating expenses, since the Legislature did not account for it in its 2015-2016 budget.

The CSU has indicated that both parties have attempted in good faith to negotiate a settlement but their efforts have been unsuccessful.

“The Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act requires the CSU and CFA to go through a statutory procedure when the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) certifies that the parties are at impasse,” CSU stated. “That certification by PERB was given back in July 2015. Since then, the parties have been through a mediation phase without success. PERB then certified the parties to the final stage of statutory dispute resolution procedure called ‘fact-finding.’ The fact-finding process is a formal evidentiary proceeding overseen by a neutral third-party. At the end of the process, the fact-finder, together with a representative from each party, will issue recommendations to the parties for settlement of the issues in dispute.”

After the parties receive the report, there is a 10-day “quiet period” during which the parties hold the contents of the report privately to encourage settlement based on the advisory recommendations. At that stage, if no agreement is reached, the CSU may implement its last offer to the CFA, and the CFA has the option to initiate concerted activities, including a strike.

“We expect the fact finder to issue recommendations in the middle of March to early April,” the CSU said.

After the announcement last week of strike dates, which would be April 13-15 and April 18-19, faculty on CSU campuses began to host “Strike Schools” and meetings to prepare, in case the parties do not reach a settlement.

On its website, the CFA states that its research shows that pay for CSU faculty has been falling behind that of other public employees, other professions and other educators in the state for the last decade.

“People in those fields have been receiving raises on the order of 5 percent or 6 percent to help them recover from the recession,” the CFA website states. “For us, though, the recession never ended. Our salaries have been flat and have not kept up with inflation. When times were bad, we tightened our belts, and now that times are good, we’re asked to continue to wait. It makes no sense, and it’s just not right. If we don’t fight to normalize our salaries now, we will fall even further behind our peers.”

Regarding how a strike would affect students, the CFA has posted a statement on its website indicating that faculty care deeply about students’ education and that the decision to strike is not being made lightly.

“If faculty are forced to strike based on the CSU administration’s unwillingness to budge on their unjust offer of 2 percent, the strike will be planned with the goal of impacting students as little as possible,” the statement reads. “At any time, [CSU] Chancellor [Timothy] White and the Board of Trustees can end this by deciding to give faculty the 5-percent raise that we deserve after going years with little or no raises.”

One of those students planning to graduate from the CSU system this spring is David Kling, a senator-at-large for the Associated Students Incorporated at CSULB. Kling has plans to earn his bachelor of arts in communication studies and graduate May 18. He even has a job lined up already. He will be heading to Alabama a week after graduation to join the ranks of new educators in the Teach for America program.

However, Kling says he’s not worried about the potential strike affecting his degree and career plans.

“I have no concerns that I will not graduate in spring,” Kling said. “My professors have expressed that if it comes down to the strike, which they will attend, they will accommodate our classes accordingly. The general buzz around campus for students in the know of what’s going on is purely support. It’s essentially students and professors standing together.”

The soon-to-be graduate referred to professors as “the heart of this country,” explaining that they help students earn a bachelor’s degree, which, he says, is “the new high school diploma.”