By Joshua Hernandez, Nov. 16, 2021
Representatives of Cal Poly Pomona’s California Faculty Association penned a letter to University President Soraya Coley earlier this month calling for her support as the union seeks an equitable labor contract with the California State University system.
In the letter, faculty members reaffirmed their commitment to obtaining salary raises to offset the rise of inflation, a matter made all the more relevant with recent inflation data reporting a 6.2% increase in the consumer price index compared to last October.
“Everyone at Cal Poly Pomona is a member of the campus community, and any member’s salary setback diminishes everyone else, including you, as well as the entire community,” reads the letter. “When we the faculty hurt, every other campus group hurts, most of all our students.”
Negotiations between the CFA and CSU were declared by the California Public Employment Relations Board to be at an impasse last month. In the most recent proposals from both sides, the CSU offered faculty a 2% raise for the 2021-22 academic year; CFA demanded 4% raises for the 2020-21, 2021-22, and 2022-23 academic years.
CFA Pomona Chapter President Nicholas Von Glahn, a professor in the Department of Psychology, also cited the CSU’s proposal to reduce FERP benefits to three years instead of five as a major source of contention in the negotiations, as well the CSU’s refusal to increase award amounts proportionally with the rise of student enrollment, which Von Glahn described as a cultural taxation article.
“None of that’s being responded to well, despite what they say about commitment to social justice, inclusivity and diversity,” Von Glahn said.
Coley, in an interview with The Poly Post, said she recognizes the importance of faculty members in carrying out the goals of the university.
“We’re hoping that the discussion that’s forming at the table will result in a contract that both the system and the union can mutually agree upon, because I do think a compensation increase is in order,” Coley said.
While Coley said faculty members are entitled to a salary increase, she did not specify how much they should receive.
Coley is not a member of the bargaining teams, and she said she does not have an immediate or long-term understanding of how feasible the two competing proposals are.
Nor would it be feasible to use the $8 million Presidential Excellence Fund allocated from the $40-million donation received from MacKenzie Scott to finance a campus-level salary increase, according to Coley, as it would not be equitable to the other campuses which received less money from her, or none at all. Additionally, the $40 million grant is considered one-time funds, meaning the university cannot count on receiving that same amount of money regularly.
Coley also added, “The CSU has to make financial decisions for the long-term, not based on one fiscal year at a time.”
CFA Pomona Chapter Vice President Jonathan Puthoff, an associate professor in the Department of Chemical & Materials Engineering, said that Coley has consistently shown support for faculty and listened to their arguments intently when speaking with CFA in the past.
“She’s a very good president in that she does understand the faculty perspective,” Puthoff said.
However, Puthoff also recognized that as the president of the university, she also represents other stakeholders than just the faculty, including students, staff and the CSU Chancellor’s Office.
Von Glahn also recalled, “We retained a good relationship with her even when we voted to go on strike last time,” in reference to the contract negotiations from 2015 to 2016 which narrowly avoided a strike after the CSU and CFA reached a tentative agreement.
“It’s such an unfortunate thing that we have to go through all this just to get a fair contract, just to get some raises,” added Von Glahn.
Looking ahead, CSU-CFA negotiations are in the arbitration phase, where a state-appointed meditator will attempt to form a compromise between the CSU and CFA.
In other bargaining news, the CSU, the California State University Employees Union and Teamsters Local 2010 awarded Mercer Consulting a contract to conduct an independent evaluation of the non-faculty staff’s salary structure.
According to Von Glahn and Puthoff, past attempts at arbitration were unsuccessful at producing an agreeable contract.
“While she may not have any explicit authority to dictate things, as a campus president, she does have a very powerful voice in what is going on in the Chancellor’s Office, and what is going on with the board of trustees,” Puthoff said. “We’re just asking her to use that voice.”
Feature image courtesy of Tom Zasadzinski
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