Tensions overflow at Sacramento State as faculty strikes conclude

By Golden Gate Xpress Staff, Dec. 8, 2023 

This post is in collaboration with San Fransisco State University’s student newspaper, Golden Gate Xpress. 

The California Faculty Association’s last day of rolling strikes concluded with tension between picketers and those who decided to cross the picket line at California State University, Sacramento on Thursday.

The CFA organized their first strike at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona on Monday, followed by San Francisco State University on Tuesday and California State University, Los Angeles on Wednesday.

The strike at Sacramento State started at 6 a.m. and had four picketing locations, including the intersection of J Street and Carlson Drive. Throughout the event, picketers held signs and engaged in chants while blocking traffic toward the school. The efforts turned tense at times.

Music students at Sacramento State University play during the one-day CFA strike on Dec. 7, 2023. | Neal Wong, Golden Gate Xpress

At one point, Trevor White, a part-time math instructor at Sacramento State, sat on the front of a white car as the driver attempted to push through the picketers. The vehicle drove a few hundred feet with White on the hood.

“We’re trying to block the traffic –– striking –– and a Tesla bumped into me,” White said. “So I hopped on the hood. It was pretty exhilarating. Honestly, I thought I was gonna eat shit when I fell off the hood, but I landed on my feet so I’m OK. I’m here. I’m fighting.”

Anne Luna, Sacramento State’s CFA chapter president and an associate professor of sociology, was picketing at the university’s main entrance.

“The majority of our faculty are actually not tenure-lined, so they are working multiple jobs just to make ends meet,” Luna said. “We are really just demanding basic rights, respect and justice.”

Luna also said that the CFA’s proposed 12% wage increase is essential to providing students with optimal learning environments.

Picketers block cars at an intersection at J. Street and Carlson Drive in Sacramento on Dec. 7, 2023. | Neal Wong, Golden Gate Xpress

“We are absolutely doing this because we love the students,” Luna said. “We want to be able to serve them, give them the time and energy that they need.” 

Mayor Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento spoke at the afternoon rally, expressing solidarity with the strikers and speaking on his hopes for a peaceful resolution.

“I stand in solidarity with the faculty at the CSU,” Steinberg told Golden Gate Xpress. “We’re seeing across the state and across the country that people –– hard-working people –– are saying loud and clear, ‘we’re getting squeezed.’”

Rusty Hicks, the chair for the California Democratic Party, was another voice from the local political landscape who were present to share their support for the CFA at the J Street picketing site.

“Obviously, CSU, the administration has not stepped forward and done what’s right by faculty and contingent lecturers here at CSU,” Hicks said. “I’m happy to stand with them and ensure their voice is heard here on the street today.”

The CFA continues to fight for a 12% raise, improved health and safety coverage, longer paid parental leave and other issues. If a deal is not reached between the CFA and the CSU, a strike across all 23 campuses could begin in the Spring 2024 semester.

“The decision to go on strike is not an easy one, but it is an important one and it’s an option of really, last resort when you simply can’t get anywhere else at the bargaining table,” Hicks said. “I think, at a time in which we are training the next generation of Californians and Americans, it’s important that instructors teach by doing, and that’s really what today is about –– making their voices heard on the street.”

Logan Gibson, a second-year mechanical engineering student, was one of many affected by the strike; his Thursday classes were canceled and two of his finals were moved to next week.

Although he was notified by a professor before the Thursday strike, Gibson said the event remained a low priority due to outside commitments. 

Nonetheless, Gibson expressed support for the CFA strike. 

“A lot of these teachers are just by themselves or they have families to support and they don’t get enough money,” Gibson said. “And then they’re also trying to do what they love; trying to teach the next generation — they should get compensated for that.”

The CFA’s Sacramento chapter reached out to local artists and activists Joe Toney and Jaime Ellison to help keep the high energy going throughout the day. 

“They wanted some artists who were aligned with a cause to play music and help keep people energized throughout the day. It’s gonna be a long day,” said Toney.

Picketers cross an intersection near Sacramento State University on Dec. 7, 2023. | Adriana Hernandez, Golden Gate Xpress

Tahvie Keary, a fifth-year graphic design student, was on her way to work at the school’s welcome center before briefly spectating the strike. Keary said that not being able to provide reasonable faculty wages could potentially be why students can’t complete their education.

“Students, faculty, staff, we are the backbone of the school,” said Keary. “It’s really important that everybody who works here gets fair, livable wages without any predatory contracts.”

Keary said she supports the idea of continued strikes during the Spring 2024 semester if a deal isn’t reached between the CFA and CSU Board of Trustees.

“The pros outweigh the cons,” said Keary. “People are also taking this as an opportunity to realize that we’re not going to have any finals — bottom line — if we don’t have contracts, and we don’t have wages that support our staff, faculty and our student assistants.”

Margarita Berta-Avila, an education professor at Sacramento State, spoke in support of the faculty strike.

“We have shut it down in Pomona. We have shut it down in San Francisco,” Berta-Avila said. “We have shut it down in Los Angeles. And we are shutting it down today.”

Steinberg said he hopes the CSU and CFA could work out their differences by the time the spring semester begins, emphasizing that he believes “in collective bargaining done fairly.”

“I’m here to support the struggle for people –– people who are in the middle who are trying to make it happen and certainly for faculty, teachers, people who are so crucial to preparing young people for their futures,” Steinberg said.

CFA and CSU are set to enter another round of negotiations next Tuesday in Long Beach. 

Contributed to this coverage: Victor Harris, Adriana Hernandez, D’Angelo Hernandez, Sunthi Jong, Steven Rissotto, Neal Wong

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