CSU Faculty Union Votes to Strike

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

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Published on May 08, 2012 with No Comments

By Seth Sandronsky

Editor’s note: This report has been updated. See below.

May 8, 2012

Results of a May 2 strike vote by faculty union members at the 23-campus California State University system grants the elected board of the California Faculty Association to authorize rolling two-day strikes.

A total of 12,501 eligible CFA members participated in the vote, online and in-person between April 16-27, with 8,750 members (70%) voting. According to the CFA, 8,313 (95%) of the unionists voted yes to striking if CSU Chancellor Reed holds fast to what a statement from the 24,000-member union termed his “all-concession” contract offer.

CFA members have been working since June 30, 2010, without a new contract.

“Today’s announcement is more rhetoric from CFA leadership that has no bearing on negotiations,” said Mike Uhlenkamp, CSU spokesman. “The numbers provided by CFA actually point to less than half of faculty – about 8,300 people – actually voting to approve this.”

The CFA and CSU plan to meet later this week in a bid to resume contract talks and resolve disputed issues. In case their efforts fail, the next legal step is fact-finding under the auspices of the state Public Employment Relations Board. It would assign a neutral fact-finder to listen to evidence from both sides and recommend how to settle their differences.

If the CFA and CSU fail to accept the fact-finder’s recommendations, the 2010 contract officially expires. Then the Chancellor could legally impose what the CFA terms his concessionary demands on the rank-and-file membership.

With such a unilateral move from CSU management, the CFA would gain the freedom to strike system-wide, potentially halting classes for hundreds of thousands of CSU students. This has never happened in CSU history.

State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) responded to the CFA strike vote results with a statement of support for the union.

“While the university’s top brass get pay hike after pay hike and the Trustees find new and creative ways to give excessive raises to campus presidents, the students and workers suffer,” Yee said. He took CSU Chancellor Reed and the Trustees to task for providing ineffective leadership, claiming that a failure to change their priorities in bargaining a fair contract with the CFA threatens an historic work stoppage that would harm CSU students and the state economy.

“We have always indicated that our desire is to come to a negotiated agreement,” Uhlenkamp said. “The CSU labor team has indicated that there are a limited number of items that still need to be resolved, so we are optimistic about a resolution that could happen in the near future.”

Update, 5/9/12:

Twenty-three months of contract talks between the California State University and California Faculty Association resumed on May 3 and ended with no resolution on May 5.

Each side faulted the other for the breakdown.

“We are very disappointed that CFA chose to walk out and we were not able to bring these negotiations to a successful conclusion,” said CSU Vice Chancellor of Human Resources Gail Brooks in a statement.

“The CSU only wanted to talk about the contract issues that they put on the table,” said Alice Sunshine, a CFA staffer. “We have issues that we put on the table that they won’t negotiate, such as class sizes and academic freedom, as the CSU makes more full-time jobs into part-time, temporary work.”

Fact-finding with a neutral third-party interviewing both sides is the next step in the negotiating process.

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.

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