After eight months of negotiations, California State University management concluded bargaining with the California Faculty Association by imposing a 5% salary increase starting Jan. 31, as well as increased department chair pay and a “modest” parking fee increase.
The decision was announced Jan. 9, during the second day of negotiations between the CFA and CSU. The CFA followed the announcement with a renewed commitment to preceed with its plans for a system-wide strike Jan. 22-Jan. 26.
Although there were other days for negotiations, according to an email from the CFA to union members, CSU management “walked out of bargaining” and canceled all remaining negotiations.
In response to the canceled negotiations, the CFA will proceed with a five day statewide strike Jan. 22 to 26 in an effort to get CSU management back to the bargaining table. Faculty members from all 23 CSU campuses are expected to participate, making this the first strike of its kind.
The strike will not interfere with student’s academic requirements and classes are expected to resume on Jan. 29. According to Nicholas Von Glahn, president of CPP’s CFA chapter and psychology department chair, if another strike is to occur this semester, the campus community would have a proper warning.
“We can’t legally and we wouldn’t surprise our students like that,” said Von Glahn.
CSU management sent an email to union members the same day negotiations concluded. In the email, Leora Freedman, vice chancellor for Human Resources wrote, “We are very disappointed that despite our best efforts, there has been no meaningful movement from the CFA over the course of more than seven months of negotiations.”
The email calls the CFA’s salary proposal “not financially sustainable to the CSU” and claims it would result in “painful cuts on our campuses – including layoffs – that would jeopardize the CSU’s educational mission.”
The CFA’s original salary propsal includes a 12% General Salary Increase, raising the lowest salaries for lower level faculty positions and increasing chair pay. Its proposal remains relatively the same, with the ammendment that they will not receive the GSI until Oct. 1 so the CSU has proper time to allocate funds.
The announcement was met with frustration by CFA members, many highlighting the union busting tactics of the CSU.
According to Kate Ozment, an associate professor of English , to blame the CFA for lack of movement in bargaining feels like “gaslighting” and a “manipulative way of presenting facts.” Ozment stated the problem with negotiations is that nothing has changed on either side.
Another aspect of bargaining that hasn’t changed, according to Ozment, is facultys’ need for better working conditions.
“We continue to need pay increases,” said Ozment. “It’s not optional, it’s not academic, it’s not abstract, it’s just we cannot live on what we’re getting paid so we don’t have the luxury of moving away from our position.”
Billy Gallagher, the CFA representative for Cal Poly Pomona explained the difficult situations faculty members face because of a lack of pay that does not up with inflation.
“Part time faculty are buzzing between different campuses, living in very precarious situations, sometimes in their cars and this is just an insult across the board,” said Gallagher.
According to Gallagher, the final offer imposed by the CSU at the last bargaining meeting is worse than previous offers.
Previous counterproposals from the CSU included a raise in Post Promotion Increase and a Selected Service Increase . According to Von Glahn, those previous offers would only affect 30% of faculty across the CSU.
Gwen Urey, the CFA elections committee chair and professor in the Urban and Regional Planning Department also expressed disappointment with the CSU.
Urey was present for a Jan. 8 meeting regarding negotiations where she described that prior to the start of the meeting, she and the bargaining team were hopeful the CSU would come to the table with a better counter proposal, but when bargaining began, that sentiment changed.
“It felt completely dismissive, like they weren’t even interested in our proposals,” said Urey.
Urey explained the proposal presented at the time would date the raised wage back to October instead of July. The CFA stated this would save the CSU 25% in the cost of raising wages.
For both Von Glahn and Ozment, the response from the CSU is especially disappointing because of their argument that there aren’t enough funds for the CFA’s proposals.
Ozment shared the cost of the four CFA proposals would amount to approximately $362 million. Both Von Glahn and Ozment repeatedly referenced the CSU’s investment pool which
contains a total of $8 billion. They also mentioned the CSU’s reserve fund, which contains about $1 billion.
In an email to The Poly Post, Claudia Keith, interm assistant vice chancellor of Strategic Communications and Public Affairs at the CSU, explained the reserves serve four purposes. There are reserves for economic uncertainty, catostrpohic events as well as short term obligations and capital infurstructure repairs and maintenance.
She more accurately defined catastrophic events as well as economic uncertainty.
“Reserve funds are used for costs associated with fires, floods, and earthquakes,” she wrote. “These funds were used to cover expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic and unexpected declines in student enrollment.”
As for economic uncertianty, she explained the CSU’s reserve policy.
“CSU’s reserve policy contemplates that prudent operating reserves equal to three to six months of the annual budget to ensure that operations can continue for an academic term when state appropriations are delayed during recessionary periods or when facing unexpected reductions,” Keith wrote.
Keith also clarified that investments cannot be used for ongoing operations becaue state law requires investment funds to only be used for capital maintence or outlay.
“They could simply take the money they currently have invested, and only take the money they make off of those investments, not even touch the principal and more than quadruple what we’ve asked for,” said Ozment.
Ozment continuously expressed disappointment in the CSU and its behavior in bargaining, and stated the CSU has not brought “any real proposals to the table, nor an acknowledgment of the billions and billions of reserves they’re sitting on.”
Engineering student Kevin Diaz expressed his empathy for faculty.
“The professors and staff worked hard to earn the credentials and degrees they needed to obtain the positions they have and deserve more compensated salaries above much more than whatever they were getting paid now,” said Diaz. “This completely dishonors the Bronco name and what we stand for as a whole.”
Diaz also believes current conditions not only affect current faculty, but may be pushing away future members of the campus community.
“Imagine if you were a potential professor or future student wishing to apply to colleges to attend or teach,” said Diaz. “Knowing this occurrence at CPP, you’d probably think twice before wanting to come here, maybe even a couple more times to evidently just decline.”
Urey shared this scenario is not just hypothetical. Just two weeks ago she was trying to fill a part time postion and was excited to hire a new instructor.
All Unit 3 employees, regardless of union membership, received emails from administrators in regards to the upcoming strike, clarifying that professors who participate in the strike will not be paid for withholding work.
The email read in part: “If you strike, you are not entitled to be paid. It is a misuse of taxpayer dollars for the CSU to compensate any employee who withholds work. When an employee strikes, they withhold work for the entire day.”
In an email to students and parents Jan. 17, Vice President for Student Affairs & Dean of Students, Christina Gonzales, shared the campus will remain open including resources and student services.
In the email students were encouraged to attend classes unless their instructor communicated that it is canceled. The email also read, “The university is taking steps to lessen the impacts of the work-stoppage to students.” Also according to the email, if a class or service is canceled, students are “welcome but not obligated” to share the information via a link provided in the email.