Staff union bargains for working conditions
Picket to drum up support for union during new contract negotiations with chancellor's office.
April 10, 2006 12:51 PM
While holding signs that read, “Raises, Rights and Respect,” about 30 members of SF State’s local chapter of the California State University Employee’s Union (Local 2579), held a brief rally.
On March 29, the picketers chanted slogans as they marched through the crowd at another protest and then around the administration building to draw attention to their struggle to reach a fair contract with the chancellor’s office.
The union, which represents 16,000 CSU employees, is demanding a 13.5 percent pay raise across the board, which the chancellor’s office has denied. At this point in the bargaining, the chancellor’s office’s proposal still does not include raises, citing budget constrictions.
Union members, however, expressed outrages at the fact that while their salaries remain low and stagnant, top administrator’s salaries continue to rise.
“Staff (members) are the backbone of the university,” said academic coordinator and Union member Bridget McCracken. “The machine that wants to cut us, will cut itself.”
Before marching, the campus employees from information systems, clerical support, janitorial and healthcare positions, attended a lunch meeting where Chapter President Russell Kilday-Hicks spoke about the status of the negotiation.
Since its inception in 1984, Local 2579 has never gone on strike. As California employees, the workers would not be allowed to strike while still under a contract.
The current contract will expire on June 30, and the goal is to have a new one in place before July 1. If an agreement is not reached, it is likely that the current contract will be extended into July, said Kilday-Hicks.
“The chance (of a strike) is very remote right now,” he said, although they do have a strike fund for a “rainy day.”
According to Kilday-Hicks, there is a 15 to 17 percent disparity between staff pay and the cost of living in the bay area. Other areas of contention are additional hiring for vacant positions and vacation allocation.
Union volunteer and labor studies major, Joseph Jelincic, 23, said that while tuition has gone up 73 percent over 4 years, university President Robert Corrigan received a $53,000 raise this year.
“Corrigan gets a $12,000 a year car allowance, while I spend $45 a month on transportation,” he said.
According to Jelincic, there are plans to raise the salaries of top administrator’s by 49.5 percent over the next five years.
Kilday-Hicks regarded the pay raise disparity between top administrative and staff level positions as, “symbolic of the priorities of the system,” and part of a “corporate mindset.”
According to Kilday-Hicks, the board of trustees has justified their decision to raise pay for the presidents as necessary to compete with other schools for the best president.
“Shortsighted people treat the handful of top brass as though they are special, but the whole system is special, and California needs to hear that,” he said.
If no contract agreement has been reached, another rally is planned for the end of July.
Graduate creative writing major, Page McBee, 25, is not surprised that the university focuses their resources on top level administrators.
“The pay issue sounds ridiculous, but it’s not outside the realm of what happens generally in education.” she said. “People should be paid fairly, it’s not so much a money issue, but a human issue, about being treated fairly.”
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