Understanding why the Cal State community is disappointed in the CSU

By Emely Bonilla, Nov. 14, 2023

Oct 12 the California State University published a press release announcing they had reached a tentative multi-year agreement with three unions that represent approximately 26,000 workers within the CSU, including Cal Poly Pomona.

Lark Winner, a graduate student at Cal State San Bernardino, currently serves at the president of the UAW4123, a CSU union representing the teacher assistants, graduate assistants and instructional student assistants across the CSU. The employees under UAW4123 were granted a two-year contract that includes a 5% raise for the next two fiscal years and expanded sick pay benefits as well.

“Bargaining is always a really exciting time because we can actually make concrete material improvement,” said Winner. “Every union is a little bit different about how the process actually unfolds … for us that process began in June, the actual negotiations with CSU management, but we worked before that to prepare what we wanted to win.”

To ratify these tentative agreements, but still faced backlash from the Cal State community during the public forum portion of the meeting.

Though the CSU has been able to reach agreements with multiple unions, constituents from all parties still feel there is more that can be done. Various students, staff and faculty came forward to discuss their disappointment with the tuition increase and making the negotiation process difficult for Teamsters and the California Faculty Association

The CSU announced they had reached agreements with two more unions, but the California Faculty Association  and Teamsters Local 2010 are still preparing to picket and strike after a recent practice strike. Collectively, the CFA and Teamsters represent about 30,000 employees within the CSU and both unions are hoping the CSU accept their demands. Both unions are advocating for competitive salaries and overall benefits for their members, but it is unclear whether this can be achieved.

In April of 2022, the CSU released a Salary Study in partnership with several trusted groups of campus community such as Teamsters to discuss how CSU employees have felt that the system has been able to retain staff due to wage stagnation, little to no room for promotions and a lack of job framework. This study concluded that utilizing salary steps, annual salary increases, modernizing framework and an increase in benefits for employees could resolve the disdain from the CSU community, but this was not considered until the recent contract bargaining.

Within the CSU there are opportunities to request wage increases when an employee feels that their contract is unfair, but often this negotiation is time consuming and confusing.

Kimberly Allain, senior associate vice president for Employee and Organizational Development and Advancement/HR Operations at CPP, discussed how staff salaries at a campus level are more complicated than it seems. Previously, the CSU had established various processes through collective bargaining agreements such as In Range Progressions, IRP, to help staff members that feel unfairly compensated receive the wages they feel are appropriate.

“(Staff) can send that request to our team. It can either be employee submitted, or it can be manager submitted, but the employee can only submit once a year. Frankly, we normally receive about 40 of these per year, but this year, we have already received over 300 so employees are actively using that process,” shared Allain.

This process does not always guarantee a raise because salaries are not based on work quality and ethics at the CSU.

“The CSU does have salary ranges for each (staff) classification, all salaries have to be in that classification range,” said Allain. “There’s no ability to go outside of the range. We can’t pay you under the range or over; if someone wants an increase what they would need to do is seek a reclass.”

Hector M. Maciel, an instructional support technician, who serves as the CSU Employees Union chapter president at CPP. The CSUEU secured a deal with the CSU that will span over the next three fiscal years and will include a 10% raise between 2023 –2024 and then on the third year the CSU will implement salary step for all union members.

Maciel shared how the CSU had previously provided salary steps, increased wages the longer the person works for CPP,  of this group, but it had been revoked by the Chancelor’s Office years ago.

“As president I am like the captain of my ship,” said Maciel. “I have moved this organization in the right direction for the betterment of the staff we serve. We try our best to protect all those minorities that feel like they don’t have a voice. We do not want them to be taken advantage of. The salary increase is something that sort of alleviates a bit of stress from the staff that feel overworked.”

The CSU system is one of the country’s largest public university systems enrolling nearly 460,000 students and employing over 50,000 people statewide.

Feature Image Courtesy of Alexander Novoa

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