Student Support Growing for CSU Faculty Strike Action

Written by Seth Sandronsky. Posted in Education, Labor, News

Tagged: , , , ,

Published on April 11, 2012 with No Comments

Faculty members vote April 16 to authorize strike actions

File photo by Luke Thomas.

By Seth Sandronsky, via Media Workers Guild

April 11, 2012

More than 427,000 California State University students are on the front lines of a brewing labor union conflict in the 23-campus system. The California Faculty Association, the union that represents 24,000 CSU employees – including coaches, counselors, librarians and faculty – will vote April 16 through 27 to approve or reject a series of two-day rolling strikes in May.

Mediation for contract talks between the two sides broke down on Friday, April 6. The final step in negotiating is fact-finding. In this legal process, the state Public Employment Relations Board assigns a fact-finder to listen to both sides. This last step will likely begin after the CFA’s strike vote.

The fiscal backdrop to this historic work stoppage is a decline of state tax revenue for the CSU. State taxes for the CSU have dropped nearly $1 billion, or 33 percent, since 2008, according to a statement from the chancellor’s office in Long Beach.

Students are digging deeper into their pockets and racking up growing debt loads to bridge that funding gap, according to Daniel Wilson, a 24-year-old graduate student from Cartersville, Georgia who is pursuing an advanced degree in social work at Sacramento State.

Wilson sides with the CFA.

“I approve of and encourage CSU faculty to strike,” Wilson said. “For too long, the CSU, and many other institutes of public higher education have been treated as a business, where the monetization of education takes precedence over the intrinsic value of education.”

Laura Gonzalez is Associated Student Inc. president at Sac State. She declined repeated request to comment for this story.

Nora Walker, a 21-year-old history major from Fresno, is another Sacramento State student who backs CFA’s stance on putting a May or fall 2012 strike to a rank-and-file vote in mid-April.

“On the subject of the strike vote, I am in support of the union,” said Walker, who is also a member of the campus chapter of Students for a Quality Education (SQE).

CFA members have been working without a contract since June 30, 2010, and last received pay raises in 2008. In response to unpaid raises for CFA union members for their 2008-09 and 2009-2010 contracts, the union voted its approval for a one-day work stoppage last November 17 at the CSU East Bay and Dominguez Hills campuses.

This reporter spoke by phone with a member of the California College Republicans for a comment on the CSU labor-management conflict. He declined to reply and requested that questions be sent via email. CCR ignored two such email queries.

Yeimi Lopez, 22, of Southern California, is a communication major at Sac State and a SQE member. She said that SQE is a leading student solidarity group that backs the CFA.

According to Walker, “Reed refuses to give the faculty the raises that they were promised and repeatedly tells them that these are tough times and we all have to make tough choices, then turns around and gives pay raises to administrators.”

Two elected Democrats at the state Capitol in Sacramento are responding. Assemblymember Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) and Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) are authoring bills to regulate what they say is excessive pay for CSU executives.

According to a statement by Sen. Yee, his SB 967 would ban raises for top CSU administrators in budget deficit years requiring spending cuts or within two years of a student fee hike. Portantino’s AB 1787 would cap pay for public employees earning more than $100,000.

“By increasing class size, increasing students fees, and denying faculty raises while approving salary increases for CSU campus presidents, the chancellor (Charles Reed) is communicating a clear message that the CSU is no longer about education, students, or professors,” said Wilson. “It is about money.”

Meanwhile, CSU students are facing the prospect of a CFA strike in May that interrupts their studies. Nonetheless, Wilson agrees with the CFA leaving work to walk a picket line.

“Although a strike may require some classes to be cancelled, the message sent to the CSU chancellor, our elected officials, and the general public is of utmost importance,” Wilson said. “I will stand united with my professors in our message that the CSU needs to be saved from those who wish to dismantle it.”

Walker concurs with Wilson.

“Speaking strictly as a student the prospect of a possible strike interrupting my studies doesn’t bother me,” Walker said. “What would be the alternative?

“There are already too few faculty to teach the amount of classes for students to graduate on time. The faculty is fighting not only for themselves but for students as well, since faculty working conditions are student learning conditions.”

The CFA will announce the result of its members’ strike vote at the end of April.

Seth Sandronsky

Seth Sandronsky

Seth Sandronsky is a freelance journalist working in Sacramento. His work has been featured on mediaworkers.org – the award-winning website of the Pacific Media Workers Guild – as well as in the Earth Island Journal, The Progressive Populist, Sacramento News & Review and Z Magazine. Sandronsky can be reached at sethsandronsky@gmail.com.

More Posts