FRESNO – In the midst of a labor dispute between the California Faculty Association (CFA) and the California State University (CSU) system, a professor of CSU Stanislaus has expressed his skepticism about the upcoming meeting between CFA and CSU as both sides seek resolution amidst demands for higher pay and improved working conditions.
On Oct. 30, the California Faculty Association (CFA), which represents 29,000 California State University (CSU) employees across 23 campuses, authorized a walkout last week to demand higher pay, smaller class sizes and more manageable workloads for instructors.
In a statement, CFA said 95% of its members voted in favor of the walkout. CFA said it will meet with CSU Chancellor Mildred Garcia at the next board of trustees meeting on Nov. 7. If the two sides cannot reach an agreement, CSU employees may strike.
A 12% general salary increase in the current fiscal year, smaller and more manageable class sizes, and other “systemic” problems are the sticking points between CFA and CSU. CSU maintains it cannot afford the 12% increase, as the percentage is not realistic.
“CFA’s salary and benefit demands for just the current fiscal year total approximately $380 million,” CSU said on its website. “Compensation increases, which are ongoing costs, can only be implemented in a fiscally responsible and sustainable way.”
On its website, CFA lists the following demands from its voting members:
- A pay raise that stays ahead of inflation.
- Pay equity and raise the (salary) floor for lowest-paid faculty.
- Manageable workloads that allow for more support and engagement with students.
- More counselors to improve students’ much-needed access to mental health counseling.
- Expanding paid parental leave.
- Accessible lactation and milk storage spaces for lactating faculty.
- Safe gender-inclusive restrooms and changing rooms.
- Safety provisions for faculty interacting with university police on campuses.
In less prosaic matters, CFA says its members are also “bargaining for the elimination of white supremacy and the status quo that seek to silence, hide, whitewash, and oppress.”
CFA accuses CSU of “hoarding billions in reserve” as it invests more in administrative personnel, but decreases its investment in instructional support.
“We are bargaining for what could be if students, faculty and staff received the investment they deserve, and were free from intersectional barriers,” CFA states on its site.
AN INDICATION OF FAILURE
Steven Filling is an accounting professor at CSU Stanislaus. He is also the political action legislation chair for CFA and the faculty rights lead for Stanislaus. Filling said he is not optimistic about the Nov. 7 meeting of the CSU board of trustees and Garcia, or about the CFA and CSU reaching a workable resolution.
“Chancellor Garcia will be at the board of trustees meeting,” Filling said. “CFA will be at the board of trustees meeting. CFA is allotted 60 seconds to have our president speak to the board. It is not a genuine interaction with the trustees.”
Filling’s pessimism stems from CSU’s reactions to CFA proposals.
“The administration has come back at us for every one of our proposals and said, effectively, we can’t afford it,” said Filling. According to Filling, CSU has said it cannot afford compensation increases. The administration said it cannot afford to install gender-inclusive restrooms because it will cost millions. It is the same argument against installing more lactation stations and for the other items on CFA’s list of demands.
“The analysis our independent financial person came up with, which is based on CSU’s audited financial statements, is CSU is sitting on $8.12 billion in reserves,” Filling said.
He went on to say, “Our analysis indicates that every year, CSU is taking in literally hundreds of millions of dollars more than what it is spending. From our perspective, at the end of the year, having more left over than what you spent is an indication of failure – not success.”
IF FACULTY STRIKE
In a statement, CSU said, “CSU remains committed to the collective bargaining process and reaching a negotiated agreement with the CFA as we have done with five of our other employee unions in recent weeks.”
CSU said, if faculty strike, campuses will remain open. CSU posted the following on its website:
“Should faculty decide to strike, CSU campuses will remain open and have developed plans to minimize disruptions to operations. Individuals who choose to participate in a strike may not block or otherwise obstruct student access to campus, campus services or the classroom. Should any changes to hours, services, or events occur, that information would be communicated to the campus community.”
Filling noted that, in the event that a strike is authorized, CFA’s 29,000 members will join the picket line.