Faculty strike appears set to proceed in April

By Alan Rivera

The California Faculty Association could strike across the 23 California State University campuses, including Cal Poly Pomona, on April 13-15 and April 18-19 if it is unable to reach a wage agreement with the Office of the Chancellor after a fact-finding stage is concluded in late March or early April.

The dispute between the two entities began in June 2015. Although the Office of the Chancellor has offered CFA members a 2 percent salary increase, the union has advocated for a 5 percent increase and a 2.65 percent step increase for those who are eligible. Whether or not the CFA strikes is contingent on the conclusion of a fact-finding stage expected to be released in late March or early April and whether the Office of the Chancellor and the union can reach an agreement.

According to Dorothy Wills, CFA CPP Chapter president and a professor at CPP’s Department of Geography and Anthropology, most faculty members have not had a “decent” raise since 2004 and are weary of the back-and-fourth dispute over wages.

“The faculty are very tired of bargaining with the chancellor and the [CSU] Board of Trustees to get a decent raise,” said Wills. “We’ve obviously been impacted by the recession and by the inflation of the cost of living and a lot of other factors have contributed to our feeling that we’re not respected and not treated as we deserve. We love our jobs, we love teaching, we love our fields, but we don’t love how are finances are working out for many of us right now.”

The absence of 5 percent wage increase for CFA members poses an economic strain for some instructors, as some have college debt to payoff in addition to other living expenses like raising families and paying mortgages, according to Wills. As a result of the inability to live off compensation offered by the CSU, some CFA members have resorted to look for other jobs or additional work at other colleges and universities, according to Wills.

“We have many many dedicated people who work here that I know that some of them are looking for other jobs, and I know that some of them can’t really make ends meet on the salary that they have,” said Wills. “So those things make it hard for people to focus on their profession, and they have to worry about their livelihood all the time.”

However, according to Wills, there is a consensus of concern for students’ education and minimizing the impact of the strike on students among faculty members. As a result, in order to prepare for the possibility of a strike, some faculty members have tailored their spring quarter syllabi to offer alternative assignments or project time during the potential strike days, a display of the faculty’s commitment to students, according to Wills.

In addition, some faculty members are planning to allot time for office hours during the weekend between the potential strike dates, April 16-17, according to Wills.

Wills acknowledged that student concerns regarding the completion of spring quarter and graduating on time could arise and offered the furlough days in 2009 as a consoling example.

“For approximately 10 days, we lost 10 percent for our pay, and students lost that many days of class,” said Wills. “Graduation took place on time, students got jobs, it was hard to during the recession, but students were successful. There was no effort on the part of the administration to make sure that there were no negative consequences for the students. They treated it as ‘OK, you didn’t go to class those days.’ So we think this will have far less impact than losing 10 percent of your academic time.”

According to Laurie Weidner, the assistant vice chancellor of public affairs at the Office of the Chancellor, CSU Chancellor Timothy White is committed to fund employee compensation in all sectors of the CSU, which includes CFA members.

White outlined his priorities when he came into the position of chancellor in 2012, which includes admitting more students into the CSU, investing in the modernization of facilities and the hiring of additional faculty, in addition to offering wage increases for all CSU employees.

The CSU’s sources of funding are the state of California and its students. According to the CSU system’s website, the 5 percent increase that the CFA is requesting would amount to $102.3 million.

The 2 percent wage increase that has been offered by the Office of the Chancellor to CFA members will occur without interruption because it was included in the CSU’s 2015-16 Support Budget as a 2 percent compensation pool that amounts to $65.5 million, which was approved by the California State Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown.

According to Weidner, the 2 percent increase in wages offered to CFA members mirrors the increase that was given to other employee groups in the CSU.

“So we’re nine months roughly into our academic year and that’s the money that we have budgeted, and so we’re implementing that budget,” said Weidner. “It means that as soon that it was approved by the governor, we started hiring more faculty, we brought on academic advisors, we brought more students into the system ” we let in 12,600 additional students. So these are decisions that were made a very long time ago. We are going to continue to honor those decisions, including honoring our compensation to faculty and to the other employee groups.”

The CSU currently operates at $135 million bellow pre-recession funding, according to Weidner. In addition, the CSU’s student enrollment increased by approximately 22,127 from the pre-recession 2007-08 academic year to the 2014-15 academic year, according to reports on the CSU Budget Office’s website.

Sarah Shufeldt, a first-year music student, believes that instructors’ and professors’ education levels are justification for higher wages.

“I think it makes sense and that they should get paid more,” said Shufeldt. “I mean think about it: the people who are teaching us have like master’s degrees or doctorates, so they’ve had so much schooling. And some of them get paid the same as like elementary school teachers, like I think that’s ridiculous ” you’re like performing higher education, so you should get paid higher.”

Ronaldo Leandro, a first-year biochemistry student, believes that educators in general are “undermined” and “low paid” but remains neutral in the wage dispute. Leandro, however, appreciates the effort on behalf of some faculty members to offer alternative assignments during the potential striking days.

“It would have been bad had they not had class and there is no lesson or anything,” said Leandro. “They’re not saying ‘oh there’s no lesson today.’ They’re actually going to give you a lesson, and so I think that shows the teachers’ dedication towards their students because they understand because they were students at college at one point, and they understand the value that we as students [have], even sometimes waking up really early to make it to classes or study or anything. So they are valuing us as students.”

Esther Chou Tanaka, director of CPP’s Office of Public Affairs, expressed that the university remains committed to the collective barraging process, remains optimistic about a positive outcome and recognizes the right of CFA members to engage in freedom of speech.

The university does not expect the potential strike to affect students negatively and remains committed to ensure that students who plan on graduating at the end of spring quarter do so on time and for other students to finish the quarter, according to Tanaka.

Despite the potential forthcoming strike, the university expects that faculty will keep students informed of any alternative assignments that may be offered and any changes to their courses, according to Tanaka.

“Certainly some classes will be cancelled, and for the classes that will be cancelled, we expect that faculty will inform students in advance about what will happen to the class: it might be changes to the course syllabus, ” it might be an alternative assignment or it might be a project day,” said Tanaka. “Even if there were no classes, I’m sure [students] can find a million different things to do: either catch up on your reading, work on a project [or] write a paper ” there’s plenty to do, especially on a short quarter system like ours.”

CFA strike plans

Alan Rivera / The Poly Post

CFA strike plans

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