By Victoria Mejicanos, Oct. 10, 2023
The California Faculty Association will open a strike authorization vote Oct. 21, which will end Friday Oct. 27 at 5 p.m. If 51% of faculty vote “yes” the CFA Board of Directors will have the power to authorize a strike if necessary.
The CFA is nearing the end of the fact-finding process. This is one of the final steps before a strike can be authorized.
After this process, both California State University Management and the CFA have a 10-day blackout period for them to negotiate. If neither party reaches a settlement within this 10-day period, which is anticipated to end mid-November, then a strike may occur.
At CPP specifically, according to Kate Ozment, an associate English professor and member of the California Faculty Association, there will be no classes held, no athletics, no library services and no counseling. Professors and advisors would pause responding to emails or making appointments.
Ozment emphasized the goal is not to have to strike, but if it needs to be done it will.
“It’s not a thing that any of us take any joy in doing but if there is no consequences for the people above us there’s not going to be any action,” she said.
Bonnie Thorne, a faculty rights chair for the CFA and a longtime lecturer for the psychology department, echoed similar sentiments, stating students may view the decision to strike as selfish due to the perception professors are wealthy.
“We really do think that our working conditions are student learning conditions,” Thorne said. “Again, lots of people are not making enough money and if we’re making too little and overworked with too many students, we don’t serve you as well.”
To Ozment, the CFA’s possible strike is more than just a salary increase.
“It’s fighting for in some ways the soul of public education in California like it’s fighting for the thing that is the most accessible to the most people and that’s the most dear and the most important thing we’re saving,” Ozment said.
Jonathan Puthoff, an assistant professor in the Chemical and Materials Engineering department encourages students and faculty alike to ask questions to CFA members and make use of all the data available to them. More information can be found on the CFA Pomona Chapter website.
Prior to the fact-finding process, the CFA began the bargaining process in May. According to an email sent to all active CFA members, the salary increase is the only proposal the CSU will address.
“While we present CSU Management with many proposals of critical importance to our members, they have chosen to focus solely on salary. And even then, they have not presented a salary increase proposal that meets our 12% General Salary Increase demand.”
CSU management met the12% increase with a counteroffer of 5%. Besides the salary increase proposal, the CFA is advocating for an increased minimum salary for the lowest paid faculty and course caps.
According to Thorne, limits to the number of students in each course are essential to decreasing workload for faculty.
Additionally, many faculty members are struggling to make ends meet. Ozment, illustrated the severity of faculty’s living situations.
“‘Should your college professors be on food stamps?’ are questions that we actually have to ask,” said Ozment.
Thorne expanded on the issue, sharing that for faculty not on the tenure track, there are even more challenges.
“We are classified as temporary faculty and so some of our lecture faculty are at the very bottom of the pay scale and really don’t make enough money to live,” said Thorne. “We have a lot of lecture faculty who teach at multiple campuses.”
Additionally, the CFA is advocating for changes that would directly impact students, such as an improved student to counselor ratio.
“The wait at Cal Poly is months to see a counselor and this is literally life and death kind of things,” said Ozment. “It’s not negotiable.”
On the tuition increase FAQ page, the CSU stated despite inflation making things difficult for students and families within the CSU, inflation is impacting them as well. They also state the tuition increase will be used to retain faculty and staff.
“The cost of living is increasing for over 50,000 CSU faculty and staff and to retain them, it is important that they are appropriately compensated. Many of these dedicated employees are role models and mentors to students. If salary and benefit packages do not keep pace with inflation, it would be difficult to retain critical employees in their roles, wrote the CSU.”
Additionally, in a video message sent Aug. 28 to faculty and staff addressing the current bargaining, prior to the tuition increase, former Interim Chancellor Jolene Koester stated the CSU has “extended and stretched” and the university will struggle to meet the demands of faculty and staff. She stated she must share “a reality” and “each of the 23 universities will be put in a position where they’re going to be forced to make difficult and painful decisions.”
Since the Board of Trustees approved the tuition increase Sept. 20, CSU Management still hasn’t met the demands of faculty as well as other unions across the CSU system.
Faculty members continues to express disappointment in the tuition increase and questioned why the CSU’s reserve funds could not be used towards their demands.
Puthoff shared his disapproval of the increase.
“They want to take all the money that comes in the form of increased tuition and they want to put it in a bank account or an investment fund” said Puthoff. “They’ve been growing every year by significant amounts while the people who teach the classes, the people who maintain campus facilities and the students in the form of tuition increases shoulder the financial burden of those deposits.”
As of Oct. 6, the investment fund holds about $1 billion, making up 12.6% of the CSU’s total revenue.
When asked via email about the reserve fund and its potential uses, Interim Assistant Vice Chancellor of Strategic Communications and Public Affairs, Claudia Keith, shared the revenue for CSU investments are derived from tuition, fees and other revenue sources such as parking and housing.
She also stated the investment earnings may not be used for ongoing operations. State law requires investment funds to be used only for capital outlay or maintenance. More information about certain aspects of the funds can be found here.
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