CSU Faculty Union Authorizes Strike
Largest Higher Education Strike in History OK'd
March 21, 2007 5:38 PM
Faculty of the nation's largest higher education system voted overwhelmingly in favor of authorizing a strike unprecedented in American history, union officials announced Wednesday.
Contract negotiations have collapsed after two years of talks between the California Faculty Association, which represents over 23,000 state educators, and the California State University administration, and a strike has become necessary, CFA officials said.
"We've done as much as we can in bargaining for a fair contract," CFA President John Travis said. "We took the final step unions have, which is to withhold our labor."
Of the 8,129 faculty votes tallied, 94 percent of them voted to authorize the union's board of directors to organize work actions. While the union represents all CSU faculty, only its 12,000 members were authorized to vote.
The strikes will roll through all Cal State campuses in two-day pickets, most likely in the end of April and beginning of May, over several weeks. Most campus chapter offices have been organizing the specifics of the strike actions since last week in anticipation of a "yes" vote.
"At San Francisco, we are planning something faculty will be able to look back on with some pride, " said Jan Gregory, a faculty member working to organize the SF State strike.
The Los Angeles chapter of the League of Women Voters counted the votes and certified the results.
The union is championing the large majority by which the vote passed and the 1,300 new members the union said it has signed up since the strike talks began. At SF State, 60 teachers signed on to the union for the right to cast a vote.
"The magnitude of the votes sends a clear message to the Board of Trustees that enough is enough," CFA Vice President Lillian Taiz said.
In a statement released yesterday, Chancellor Charles Reed said the CSU is prepared to deal with a statewide strike and "ensure that our campus communities are fully informed and the safety and security of our students, employees, vendors and visitors is protected."
But the chancellor's concerns are misplaced, according to Gregory.
"I expect a spirited and orderly strike and if the chancellor was so worried about the security and safety of students he could have arranged it so that they have adequate classes at a reasonable tuition and faculty with high morales," she said.
The strike vote has drawn strong feelings, both positive and negative, from teachers statewide, according to Taiz.
She characterized it as "a growing sense of indignation and frustration and in a strange kind of way a kind of empowerment when they went to the ballot and cast their vote to strike."
Teachers have received shows of support from many unions, including the powerful AFL-CIO, the California Teachers Association and from State Senators Leland Yee and Gloria Romero. The latter, a CFA member who last taught at CSU Los Angeles in 1997, spoke at the press conference.
"I am proud to stand with my brothers and sisters of the California Faculty Association," Romero said. "As a professor, I am a builder of dreams ... faculty are the guardians of higher education."
As a legislator, she commended the faculty's 81 percent showing at the polls in "a state where we are lucky to get a 50 percent voter turnout."
The SF Labor council, which represents over 100,000 workers in the Bay Area, has endorsed the CFA's action and is prepared to ask its member to honor the faculty's picket line. The show of support was unanimously approved this week by its executive board, according to Tim Paulson, executive director of the SF Labor Council.
"(We) have given a strike sanction which means that the other 150 unions in the council will give them whatever support they need to give them a good contract," Paulson said.
As the fact-finding report is unveiled to the public on March 25, the faculty's current contract will expire, putting even more pressure on both sides to get something done. In the meantime, teachers will be covered by the state's Title V employee terms.
The primary issue that has been preventing a contract resolution is a salary increase.
"We don't think we are very far apart," Travis said, "We think it's pushing in the neighborhood of 5 or 6 percent over several years."
The salary increase of 25.7 percent would bring the union only 50 percent closer to closing the salary gap between CSU faculty and teachers at comparable institutions, or account for increasing cost of living expenses.
Travis called it "despicable" that the CSU would try to say increased student fees are being used to fund faculty raises.
"We reject the notion that employee salaries are tied at all to student fee increases," Travis said.
As evidence, Sue Pak, the communications director for the CFA’s SF chapter, pointed out that while faculty salaries have not gone up over four years, student fees have increased for five of the past year.
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