CSU faculty union authorizes strike

Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo.
Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

The California State University’s faculty union announced Wednesday that its members have authorized a strike amid a deadlock with the CSU administration over pay increases.

Members of the California Faculty Association, including Cal Poly faculty, voted 94 percent in favor of striking if a deal can’t be reached with the CSU on pay hikes by the end of the year. The union represents 25,000 faculty, counselors, librarians and coaches across the 23 California State University campuses, including about 1,500 Cal Poly employees.

The union is seeking a 5 percent raise, along with a 2.7 percent pay bump based on years of service. The CSU administration has offered 2 percent for this academic year.

A strike wouldn’t happen until January at the earliest, according to the faculty union. That’s because the union is required to wait until a fact-finding process, conducted by a neutral third party, is explored. Fact-finding hearings are scheduled for Nov. 23 and Dec. 7.

The union has not yet revealed what type of strike it could employ. The campuses of CSU Dominguez Hills and CSU East Bay conducted one-day strikes in 2011.

A strike is the nuclear option. It literally is the last thing we want to do. I truly hope it can be avoided.

Graham Archer, Cal Poly faculty union president

Graham Archer, Cal Poly’s faculty union president, said faculty members are “mad as hell” because the CSU administration has repeatedly come to the bargaining table with the same 2 percent-raise offer since negotiations began in May. Cal Poly’s union expects to know how many of its members voted in the next few days, but it won’t be releasing the percentage of members who voted “yes” to authorize a strike.

“A strike is the nuclear option,” Archer said. “It literally is the last thing we want to do. I truly hope it can be avoided. However, the seven years of abysmal-to-no raises for faculty cannot continue. We may have little option but to strike.”

Union members from Cal Poly and other CSU campuses are planning to attend the CSU Board of Trustees meeting Nov. 17 in Long Beach to rally in support of a 5 percent raise.

“Our faculty are ready for their voices to be heard,” said Jere Ramsey, the Cal Poly union’s faculty rights representative.

During a visit Tuesday to Cal Poly, CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White said he couldn’t comment on details of the bargaining, but said that the budget needs to be balanced while the CSU addresses a variety of expenses.

He has cited the need to better fund student aid, campus infrastructure, legal costs, labs and educational facilities, and plans to boosts graduation rates.

White said he wishes he could “cure our financial ills overnight, but the reality is that we’re $200 million below where we were at the beginning of the recession.”

“We have $2 billion in deferred maintenance costs,” White said.

CSU spokeswoman Toni Molle wrote in an email Wednesday that over the past two years, CSU has invested $129.6 million in compensation, with $65.5 million dollars of that going to faculty.

“The CSU remains committed to the collective bargaining process and reaching a negotiated agreement with the California Faculty Association,” Molle said.

A strike would not be in the best interest of our students.

Toni Molle, CSU spokesman

Molle said “2 percent is what was budgeted and what has been approved by our board.” She said a 2 percent raise would equate to $32.8 million in increased budget expenditures compared with $101.7 million if the CSU meets the union’s proposal.

“A strike would not be in the best interest of our students,” Molle added.

At Cal Poly, the university is spending $1.5 million in discretionary funding to give raises to 300 staff and 316 faculty members. Last year, it allocated $500,000 to faculty and staff raises.

Although the extra money is welcome, said Archer, the faculty union president, it doesn’t go far enough. He said years of stagnant pay during the recession has left most faculty struggling to keep up with the cost of living on the Central Coast.

“The strike vote result sends the strongest possible message to the chancellor that the faculty are fed up with the status quo,” Archer said. “Coming to the bargaining table with the same offer we rejected last (school) year is an insult.”