CFA and student organizations across campus participate in practice strike

By Victoria Mejicanos, Oct. 30, 2023

As the vote to authorize a strike came to an end Oct. 27, resulting in a 95% approval among California Faculty Association members, the Cal Poly Pomona chapter of the CFA hosted a practice strike with the support of other unions in front of University Park during U-hour Oct. 23.

The purpose of the practice strike was to encourage other faculty members to “make their voice heard as a part of the democratic process” and encourage the California State University to “realign their priorities,” according to Nicholas Von Glahn, CFA president and chair of the psychology department.

The practice strike began in front of University Park with various chants and speeches as an estimated crowd of hundreds students and faculty alike checked in to receive free tacos after the demonstration.

While in line, Rachel Blakey an assistant professor in the college of science mentioned she chose to participate because she believes the quality of education students receive is dependent on the working conditions of educators.

“I know that those conditions haven’t been as fair and equitable as they need to be. I’ve heard about lecturers actually having to live in their cars because of lack of pay and job security,” said Blakey.

She also shared that the purpose of a strike is to demonstrate the possible consequences it could have on university administration.

“This is to show the administration that we have a lot of support, that we’re really serious about striking and if they don’t come to the table this is what the university is going to look and sound like,” Blakey said.

After a speech from Von Glahn, former Provost Jennifer Brown was welcomed to speak to faculty at the practice strike. After her unexpected removal,  Brown was greeted with a long period of cheering and clapping as she stood before the crowd with tears.

In her speech, she expressed the importance of joining a union.

“This is what happens when you are not part of the union,” she said. “I am a representative of what happens when you are not part of the union. I am now part of the union.”

After Brown’s speech, protesters made their way to the Student Services Building chanting “We’re fired up, can’t take it no more” and “union power.” Several speeches were made throughout the hour and a half demonstration, capturing the attention of student bystanders.

Briana Hernandez, an animal science student observing the event stated she noticed one of her professors teaches seven classes, a workload that  she described as “not the greatest situation.” She explained it leads to a delay in grading several of her assignments and homework and even impacts her professor’s teaching.

“I feel like it’s taking a toll not only on her but on us,” Hernandez said.

The CFA slogan “faculty working conditions are student learning conditions” could be found on several signs at the practice strike.

Hernandez and her friend Matthew Vazquez, each pondered on the presence of University President Soraya M. Coley.

Protesters chanting as they head to the Student Services Building | Andre Davancens

“The least the president could do is just show up. For her not to be here is kind of concerning,” said Hernandez.

As Hernandez was quiet for a moment and the unions cheered, Vazquez chimed in, “If she really cared about students, she’d be here.”

On the walk to the Student Services Building, librarians Paul Hottinger and Rayheem Eskridge  explained that for approximately 30,000 students on campus, there are only seven librarians.

Hottinger said they are “fighting for more librarians” because the limited number of staff leaves several departments without librarians.

Eskridge also spoke on the “extraordinary workload” that librarians face.

“There’s just not enough time in a 40-hour work week to be able to put on the programs, be in the classroom, provide mentorship and tutoring and research assistance to students,” Eskridge said. “It’s just untenable. So many of us take on far more than we should so that we can see our students set up for success. And while we love the work, it’s work that we should have more support in doing so that we can do it better, so that we aren’t burned out, so that the students are able to reap the benefits of the university that they’re paying to attend.”

Once the group arrived at the student services building, they were met with students in the CPP Mariachi Band and Jessie Vallejo, an associate professor of ethnomusicology who is their director.

They sang multiple songs, one of which was called “De Colores” which was chosen by Vallejo because it speaks of diversity and is also the anthem of the United Farm Workers Union, the nation’s first and largest farm workers union founded in the 1960’s by Cesar Chavez.

Following the performance by Vallejo and the mariachi students, Michael Quiroz, president of the teamsters union, shared in a speech that solidarity between unions has been key to success in bargaining.

“This coalition of unions and students everybody here has been a key part of bargaining for everybody, and I wish we could all be one big happy union but we’re going to come together and show them our strength,” he said.

Like students Hernandez and Vazquez, Quiroz mentioned the lack of presence from Coley. He stated that on the walk to the building, he spotted Coley “taking off on her little buggy.” He went on to say, “If I saw this many people upset about conditions and wages on campus I’d probably leave too.”

He compared the situation to a dirty home.

“It’s a little bit embarrassing when people come to your house, and you got stains on the floor and your laundry is everywhere, you don’t want people to see that kind of stuff right?” Quiroz said. “They want us to go back to our offices, they want us to go cash our checks, but we’re here to tell them enough is enough.”

A major component of the bargaining on the part of the CFA is to increase the student to counselor ratio. In a speech given by Dao Nuegyn, a service provider at Counseling and Psychological Services, a majority of CSU’s do not meet the standards for student to counselor ratio, including CPP.

“Students come to us for mental health issues, we help them not only survive but thrive and grow and be healthy. We preserve life,” Nuegyn said.

The event concluded with a walk to Coley’s mansion where cars honked in solidarity, and multiple student activist organizations spoke in support of faculty and in opposition against the CSU.

The CFA has ended the fact-finding process, and a neutral party has 1-2 weeks to write a report detailing their findings. Afterwards there is a 10-day blackout period where CSU management and the CFA can work towards an agreement. If both parties cannot do so within a that period, a strike would occur.

Check out The Poly Post Now for video coverage of the practice strike

Feature Image Courtesy Andre Davancens, Video produced by Victoria Mejicanos 

Correction: A previous version of this article stated in paragraph 15, two students were quoted as saying they saw the College of Agriculture Dean taking photos of the events. That is incorrect. Dean Sancho-Madriz had an off-campus appointment that day and was not on campus at that time.

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