By Joshua Hernandez, Oct. 19, 2021

The California Public Employment Relations Board determined an impasse exists between the California State University and the California Faculty Association on Oct. 5, following months of negotiations over a new contract.

After negotiating since March 5, 2020, the Sept. 30 bargaining session ended in a verbal declaration by CFA negotiators to reject further proposals made by the CSU in favor of bringing in a third-party mediator, that will be appointed by the California State Mediation and Conciliation Service.

According to CFA Vice President and Chair of Bargaining Kevin Wehr, an impasse is a legal term used to describe bargaining negotiations where both sides are unable to agree or compromise on a course of action.

“The union had asked for proposals that management has rejected,” Wehr said. “We have done the same with their proposals that management has asked of us, and there seems to be very little space for us to meet in between, so hence the declaration of impasse.”

Nicolas Hernandez | The Poly Post

According to a communique sent out on Oct. 1, the CSU was disappointed with the decision, believing there was still room to negotiate, citing their success in reaching tentative agreements on 20 contract articles, 19 of which maintained their status quo, according to a separate Aug. 31 communique.

Despite the CSU’s opinion CFA has made it clear for months it would not accept the CSU’s 2% general salary increase retroactive to July 1. CFA’s proposal would not only include a 4% increase retroactive to July 1, but also a 4% increase retroactive to the previous year and another 4% to occur next year.

According to the CFA, the 4% raise is imperative due to the current rate of inflation, which according to statistics from the California Department of Industrial Relations, is roughly between 4.7% and 5.3%.  Given the rising costs of living in the state, a 2% salary increase would effectively be a de facto pay cut.

In an Aug. 31 communique the CSU argued, “state legislators and Gov. Newsom did not specifically allocate any funding for employee compensation increases,” so funding CFA’s salary increase would take away from other priorities.

CFA Pomona Chapter Vice President Jonathan Puthoff, an assistant professor in the Chemical & Materials Engineering Department, said funding CSU priorities is not necessarily a bad thing, “but that has to be balanced against other priorities, like the priorities of the people who actually work here and the people who learn here.”

As negotiations between the CSU and CFA stalled throughout September, the CSU Board of Trustees approved a plan during its Sept. 15 meeting to allow raises of up to 10% a year for campus presidents for three years, a decision criticized by the union.

In addition to the salary increase, CFA sought to reach an agreement with the university system to allow temporary faculty the option to apply for a five-year contract rather than a three-year contract after working for the CSU at least six years.

CFA Pomona Chapter President Nicholas Von Glahn, a professor in the Psychology Department, said this proposal is meant to reward long-time faculty with more stability and job security.

“Given how much teaching a lot of these professors do, the term used to be adjunct professors,” Von Glahn said. “But they’re not adjunct if they’re here for their career.”

With negotiations at an impasse, a mediator has yet to be chosen, and until the negotiations are concluded, faculty will be working without a contract.

For now, the next steps in the process are arbitration, where a third party is brought in to mediate for both sides, then fact-finding, where research is conducted to verify the claims on both sides.

If this process does not yield results, and both sides still cannot agree, then it is possible faculty to vote on whether they will take a legal job action, as they almost did five years ago.

“The CSU seems to be playing some kind of game of brinksmanship, because they know they can push us all the way into this territory where now we don’t have a contract,” Puthoff said. “They did it last time, and we went all the way to the edge with them, and then they gave in. And now here we are doing this again.”

Puthoff added, “I don’t want this to become a regular thing.”

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