CSU faculty union approves five-day strike; move could impact Cal Poly Open House

Cal Poly faculty protest in May over compensation.
Cal Poly faculty protest in May over compensation. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Faculty at Cal Poly and across the California State University system are prepared to go on a five-day strike in April, although the CSU says campuses would remain open and some classes would still be held.

The strike has been approved for April 13-15 and April 18-19. The work stoppage would take place during Cal Poly’s Open House, scheduled for April 14-16.

The California Faculty Association’s board of directors approved the strike dates Friday night.

The union is threatening the move because of stalled negotiations on a pay raise for this year. The union is seeking a 5 percent raise, while California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White has offered a 2 percent pay hike.

“The California State University remains committed to reaching a resolution,” the CSU said in a statement. “If a strike occurs, campuses intend to remain open. Many classes will be offered, and students should check with their instructors regarding the status of their classes. The strike should not interfere with students being able to complete their semester and quarter courses and graduate on time.”

CSU spokeswoman Toni Molle said that 60 percent of the CSU’s 25,000 teaching faculty are CFA members, indicating that other faculty members would be available to teach their classes, assuming they are willing to cross picket lines.

Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier said the university takes the strike announcement very seriously and is planning ways to mitigate its impact on students.

“The university has developed contingency plans to minimize any disruption a faculty strike could have on students and the day-to-day operations of campus,” Lazier said in an email. “In addition, (the) administration is planning activities for students aimed at supporting student success during a potential strike, such as career days and professional development workshops.”

If not now, when can we get an increase?

Graham Archer, Cal Poly faculty union president

A fact-finding report compiled by an outside mediator to assess the ongoing bargaining is expected to be released in March. The faculty may go on strike 10 days after that.

“Other employee unions statewide have received raises similar to what we’re asking,” said Graham Archer, Cal Poly’s faculty union president. “We believe it’s our turn to start recovering from the recession and years of little or no raises. And we took a 10 percent furlough one year. If not now, when can we get an increase?”

Archer said that the CSU is choosing other funding priorities.

“They say there is enough money to give us the 5 percent,” Archer said. “They’ve never claimed they don’t have the money.”

But Molle noted that employee compensation is not the CSU’s only funding priority, listing other needs like enrollment growth, new faculty hires, technology upgrades, facility improvements and repairs, and investment in student services and programs that support degree completion.

She said that the CSU’s offer of 2 percent for faculty raises would equate to about $32.8 million, while the CFA’s proposal of 5 percent totals $102 million.

Many classes will continue to meet.

Toni Molle, CSU spokeswoman

Archer said that at Cal Poly, more than $6 million in new money for administrators was spent over a four-year period from 2010 to 2014, money the union says could have been used for faculty pay raises.

Cal Poly’s administration has cited that some of that money came from its fundraising pool and was used for promoting staff members at lower levels, akin to faculty gaining promotions to higher positions. Cal Poly President Jeff Armstrong has said that most of the positions are lower-level jobs in advancement that help bring donations into the university.

Also, the university has set aside more than $3 million for faculty raises over a four-year period; this year, 316 faculty and 300 staff received raises as part of a $1.5 million increase.

However, the faculty say neither those increases nor the CSU’s offer makes up for years of little growth in pay.

“If all that money going to administrators is generating money for the campus, it’s not being reflected in our paychecks,” Archer said.