Faculty call for fairness at Cal Poly

A boisterous group of Cal Poly faculty protesters chanted and hoisted signs Tuesday urging what they see as a fair resolution to 18 months of contract bargaining with the California State University system.

About 90 members of the university’s faculty union chapter held signs with slogans such as “Occupy the CSU We Teach the 99 percent” and “No Faculty Left Behind” while contending CSU Chancellor Charles Reed is refusing to budge with any pay increase.

The Cal Poly faculty, who picketed in unison with faculty at 22 other CSU campuses this week, say they’ve made concessions in negotiations such as giving up agreed upon raises between 2008 and 2010 to address budgetary shortfalls.

But they say Reed is unwilling to compromise on other points in consideration of their old contract — the negotiations of which were reopened after state budget shortfalls.

Those include correcting what the union says are inequalities in pay for experienced faculty who are making less in some cases than new faculty hired to do the same job.

The Cal Poly protesters also contend that the CSU hired a consultant at $6 million over the past few years to bargain — money that could have been spent to compensate faculty.

And the union has cited neutral fact-finder Philip Tamoush’s recommendation that Reed has funds at his disposal to use toward increases in certain faculty pay.

The union also contends top CSU executives received raises while the university is unwilling to allow faculty similar raises.

“We fully understand that the pie has shrunk,” said Glen Thorncroft, Cal Poly’s union president. “But how the pieces of the pie are being handed out is the big question right now. We’re not being treated fairly.”

According to the California Faculty Association, 93 percent of faculty members voted in favor of a strike on Nov. 17 at two campuses — CSU East Bay and CSU Dominguez Hills.

That walkout would be the first CSU faculty strike since collective bargaining began in 1983. The union previously voted to strike in 2007, but that walkout was called off when a settlement was reached with the administration the day before the scheduled strike, union spokeswoman Alice Sunshine said.

Cal Poly faculty may join in the one-day strike at those campuses, but they’d have to take a personal day or vacation day to participate.

In response to the protests, CSU spokesman Michael Uhlenkamp said that some raises to make up for pay inequities have been given for certain faculty members, as well as to administrators.

Uhlenkamp said that the contract between 2008 and 2010 stipulated that a renegotiation would have to happen if the state funding fell short.

“The faculty is the only group of CSU employees that received a pay increase since 2007,” Uhlenkamp said. “They had a 2 percent increase in 2008.”

Uhlenkamp said that the Atlanta-based law firm C. Richard Barnes and Associates was hired to assist the CSU with bargaining.

That’s because 14 union groups represent employees in the system and the university don’t have the resources to deal with negotiations entirely with its staff, he said.

Protester Jere Ramsey, a lecturer in business at Cal Poly, said she hopes to see protections in place for CSU lecturers who perform well but whose contracts could be terminated to hire less-experienced instructors at lower pay.

Cal Poly Provost Bob Koob said in a statement that negotiations are between the CSU and the union but that “we’re all frustrated by the massive cuts in state support, noting Cal Poly’s funds have been reduced from $150 million to less than $90 million” in four years.

“It has been a significant challenge for the administration and the faculty to manage these cuts without massive layoffs and without irreparably damaging Cal Poly’s quality,” Koob said.