After attending Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong’s most recent “Listening Session,” it became apparent to me that many people don’t understand how general salary increases are bargained in the California State University system.
It appeared some employees thought the president was responsible for bargaining salary increases. This is not true. Cal Poly management does not have the authority to bargain salaries.
Each union has a bargaining team that negotiates with the Chancellor’s Office bargaining team. All bargaining happens with the CSU bargaining team and with each respective union. Bargaining does not take place at the campus level in a listening session with the campus president nor in the local newspaper.
In our union, the California State University Employees Union (CSUEU), we usually conduct a survey to gather staff input and interest on what employees would like addressed, clarified, changed or included in the next contract.
In this past bargaining survey, the No. 1 item was an increase in base pay. The CSUEU board of directors collectively agreed to request an annual 5 percent increase for each year of the three-year contract.
The CSU bargaining team stated that it was offering all unions only 3 percent for the first year and 2 percent for each additional year. It stated that the state Legislature had only given 3 percent for all CSU compensations in all unions.
This is how CSUEU employees received a 3-percent base salary increase last year and will receive a 2 percent increase in July 1 and an additional 2 percent in July 1, 2016, for a total of 7 percent over three years.
Cal Poly is one of five campuses that have developed additional compensation plans for its employees. Only two have included staff (non-faculty employees) as beneficiaries of these programs. The other three include only faculty.
At Cal Poly, the plan is called the Local Compensation Program. CSUEU was contacted to meet with human resources to discuss the program. At our first meeting, HR presented a draft proposal for CSUEU employees. The plan targeted the lowest-paid employees on campus based on two criteria: (1) Whether they were hired on or before 2012, and (2) whether they fell below the CSU average for their classification.
Six classifications were considered: custodians, grounds workers, warehouse workers, parking officers, laborers and irrigation specialists. CSUEU leaders were informed that $500,000 would be spent in the first phase, and $2 million would be spent for Phase 2 and Phase 3. It was stated that all $2.5 million would be shared with all employees, including faculty. This compensation plan is in addition to the bargained base salary increases for each union.
In the CSUEU, we have an item called In Range Progression. Not all unions have this in their contracts. CSUEU leadership was able to educate human resources on how this program could be used to address the lowest-paid employees on campus.
Last month, at the CSU board of trustees meeting, I was on the speakers’ list. I gave a speech that thanked President Armstrong for awarding the lowest-paid employees on campus through the newly developed Local Compensation Plan, In Range Progressions.
This compensation plan included more than 100 employees represented by CSUEU. Most were making less than $30,000 per year. I went on to say that as we move toward a cohesive campus community with mutual respect, I encourage other CSU campus presidents to recognize the importance of staff and their dedication to the CSU and Cal Poly.
I thanked President Armstrong for respecting staff for their hard work and contributions to our campus and the CSU.
I ended the speech with what a custodian said to me during the meeting with human resources when we informed them of the program. Chatter turned to silence. It was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop. I asked one custodian, “Why is it so quiet? Why isn’t anyone asking any questions?”
She turned to me and said, “Because we are all in a state of shock and can’t believe it because nothing good ever happens to us.”
I thanked President Armstrong for making something good happen at Cal Poly. We hope that all other campuses will follow Cal Poly’s lead.