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Faculty union to rally for collective bargaining agreement

The union representing more than 23,000 California State University faculty will hold a rally at Fresno State today to advocate for a new collective-bargaining agreement that would include higher salaries for professors.

Currently, the university is operating on an agreement that expired in June. Salary disagreements have been the biggest issue stalling negotiations for a new agreement between CSU administration and faculty.

The rally, which is part of a larger CSU systemwide effort by the California Faculty Association, will culminate in a delegation of faculty delivering a letter to Fresno State President Joseph Castro, asking him to support the union’s position.

“We need our campus presidents to stand up and advocate on our behalf, hence the letter to President Castro,” said Dr. Diane Blair, president of the CFA’s Fresno chapter. “They can make up the difference in the proposal with money from campus budgets to close the gap.”

Castro has agreed to meet the delegation, listen to their concerns and affirm his commitment “to recruiting and retaining our talented and diverse faculty and staff.”

He has previously voiced his support for addressing faculty compensation, saying that it is an issue “that has been weighing heavily on my mind since arriving last August.”

In September, the CSU Chancellor’s Office proposed a $6 million increase in funding for Fresno State faculty and staff compensation over the next three years. This comes in addition to a 1.34 percent increase in faculty and staff salaries in 2013.

While the CFA says that the tone of negotiations with CSU Chancellor Timothy White has been “more constructive than in the past,” salaries and workload remain a major sticking point.

“[White] has not put enough money on the table to make a significant dent in the problem,” said Blair, who is also a Fresno State professor in communication.

The CFA is calling on Fresno State to cover the difference between the CSU and CFA proposals, a fix that they say would cost just .48 percent of the university’s budget.

“We are no longer in a budget crisis, and we know money is not scarce on our campus anymore,” Blair said. “Somehow we find the money for other things, including new administrative positions, fees for outside consultants to hire these new administrators and a $1 million bailout for our athletic department.”

Other points of contention are the CFA’s positions that salaries should increase in concordance with the cost of living each year and that salary inequities be addressed.

“New hires are brought in at higher salaries than faculty who have been here several years,” Blair said. “Essentially, we are penalizing our more-experienced faculty because of the lack of raises these last several years.”

Castro has also set aside $1.2 million in funding for a pay-equity program at Fresno State – money that will only be available after a new agreement is adopted.

“It will be the largest single new investment of base funds augmenting the 2014-15 campus budget, the first I have developed as your president,” he said.

However, the CFA has argued this funding should be guaranteed in the agreement and not subject to a campus president’s discretion.

“In addition, President Castro had the option of enacting an equity program under our last contract, but he chose not to do so,” Blair said, adding that the faculty is skeptical of any such noncontractually obligated program being implemented.

Today’s rally is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. in front of the Kennel Bookstore. It will begin with CFA representatives handing out information. Select faculty will then be given the opportunity to speak at 12:30 p.m. before the delegation takes the signed letter to Castro’s office.

The CFA launched actions at three other campuses Tuesday, including San Francisco State, CSU San Marcos and Sonoma State, with other actions being launched at the majority of the 20 other CSU campuses today.

The CFA represents all part- and full-time faculty, librarians, counselors and coaches who teach and fall into the Unit 3 category. The union claims 600 active members on Fresno State’s campus.