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Give CSU faculty a 5 percent raise, independent report says

Cal Poly President Jeff Armstrong (left, green shirt) and Cal Poly faculty union president Graham Archer (right, green shirt) talk at a protest in May led by faculty pushing for a pay increase.
Cal Poly President Jeff Armstrong (left, green shirt) and Cal Poly faculty union president Graham Archer (right, green shirt) talk at a protest in May led by faculty pushing for a pay increase. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

As the California State University faculty union prepares for a five-day systemwide strike next month, an independent fact-finder has largely sided with the union’s demands.

In a report released Monday as part of a mandatory arbitration process, the fact-finder concluded that CSU should offer its teaching staff a 5 percent raise, along with additional increases for about 43 percent of faculty who make less than more recently hired colleagues.

“The recession severely impacted the faculty at CSU,” the fact-finder wrote, “and while some progress has been made to restore the loss of competitive salaries with negotiated targeted increases, the faculty are still suffering from structural salary issues.”

According to data from CSU and the California Faculty Association, there are nearly 10,000 tenured or tenure-track professors in the system making an average of about $84,000 per year. But lower-paid lecturers, many of whom are only part-time, now comprise more than half of teaching staff in the system; they receive an average rate per class equivalent to a $50,645 salary.

To fund the 5 percent raise, the fact-finder report recommended that the university reallocate the necessary money from other projects and delay their implementation by a year or two, allowing CSU and the faculty to jointly approach the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown about a budget backfill “for the good of higher education access and the welfare of the public at large.”

Poly faculty responds

In reaction to the report, Cal Poly’s CFA President Graham Archer said the union was “overjoyed” by the findings that side with the CFA on “every point.”

He said Cal Poly’s faculty union is ready to move “full-steam ahead with our strike plans,” which are scheduled to take place 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 five-day strike is going to be historic,” Archer said. “Instead of being in the classroom teaching our students, we will be out on the picket line waving signs and chanting. It is absolutely ludicrous that we have to go to these extents to secure a modest 5 percent raise.”

CSU’s spokeswoman Toni Molle responded by saying “if CFA does conduct a strike, all campuses will remain open to provide student services.” Molle said in an email Monday that the university administration has invested nearly $90 million in compensation increases for faculty across the CSU since 2013.

Archer acknowledges that some faculty may hold class if a strike occurs, but he doesn’t believe it will be a large number and they will be viewed negatively by their peers.

“There may well be a small number of faculty who will cross the picket line and teach,” Archer said. “They are called scabs. I will defer to Jack London on that subject.”

In his writing, London referred to scabs as a “two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul, a water brain, a combination backbone of jelly and glue.”

Administration disagrees

CSU sharply dissented from the findings, arguing that it has no available funds to pay for the suggested compensation package. It already offered all employees a 2 percent raise this year. Because of me-too contract agreements with other staff unions, officials said, the ongoing cost of the 5 percent increase would be an extra $110 million per year, three times what the university has budgeted for.

In an interview, Chancellor Timothy White acknowledged that many faculty members make less than their peers at comparable universities. But he noted that, three-quarters of the way into the fiscal year, most of CSU’s budget has already been spent.

The five-day strike is going to be historic.

Graham Archer, Cal Poly faculty union president

He added that neither the fact-finder nor the faculty union have identified a source of funding that could be diverted for the raise without disrupting student education and support services.

“It’s not a question of desire, it’s a question of the ability to do so. And I’m not going to spend money I don’t have,” White said. “We have to live within our means.”

The faculty association — which represents approximately 25,000 CSU professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches — announced last month that it would strike for five days in April across all 23 CSU campuses if a salary deal was not reached. It would be the largest strike in the university’s history.

The union has previously held a strike only once, in 2011, walking out for one day on two campuses to protest budget cuts. Other strike authorizations, including during contract negotiations in 2007 and 2012, were averted by settlements with the administration.

Read to strike

Faculty association President Jennifer Eagan said Monday that the union was further motivated to strike by the report, which she called a “validation” of their experience and “truly a reflection of the economic crisis faced by our membership.” The union argues that teaching staff have been persistently underfunded over the past decade as CSU shifted money toward other priorities and their salaries have not kept up with inflation.

“CSU has had these facts and had this data, and they don’t seem to believe it,” Eagan said. “Or they do believe and they don’t really care,”

She said the university could find enough money for the raise by making different choices about its priorities, and she recommended tapping into the billions in reserves that CSU has built up since the economic recession.

“They’re sort of planning for possible emergencies in the future when they have one right in front of them staring them in the face,” Eagan said.

The two sides have 16 more days to avert the strike. Representatives from the faculty association, including Eagan, met with White and several CSU trustees Friday for more than 10 hours, but they do not agree about whether it constituted a formal negotiation.

Tribune staff writer Nick Wilson contributed to this story.

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