By Michelle Locke
Faculty of the nationâ€™s largest four-year public university system have set the stage for a labor strike that could start as early as next month.
The strike authorization vote announced Wednesday comes after nearly two years of bargaining have failed to produce an agreement.
â€œWe are a faculty that is fed up and weâ€™re a faculty thatâ€™s ready to walk off the job,” California Faculty Association President John Travis said as he announced results of the vote at the Southern California campus of CSU Dominguez Hills.
Union leaders said if a strike is called it would be limited to two-day actions that move from campus-to-campus to lessen the impact on CSUâ€™s more than 400,000 students.
CSU Chancellor Charles Reed issued a statement saying administrators were doing everything they could to reach a settlement, but if faculty do go on strike, the system has plans in place to minimize disruptions.
In Sacramento, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a statement saying he was optimistic talks would resume.
â€œFaculty and administrators must work together in good faith so that our students, who are bettering themselves through receiving a quality college education, do not become the unintended victims of a looming strike,” he said.
Nadir Vissanjy, chairman of the California State Student Association, said the organization doesnâ€™t have a position on the strike, but it does support having CSU employees paid competitively.
Vissanjy, studying international business at Sonoma State University, said a strike could be inconvenient for him, but he believes administrators and faculty will try to lessen the impact on students.
Both sides agree CSUâ€™s professors and lecturers are paid less than peers at comparable institutions. But administrators said they made an offer to increase wages by nearly 25 percent over the next three years.
Union leaders dispute that most faculty would receive that much, questioning the mechanics of how the raises would be structured.
A fact-finderâ€™s report was completed March 16 and sent to both sides, who have 10 days to decide what to do next. The report will not be made public until then.
Union officials said about 80 percent of the 11,000 dues-paying faculty eligible to vote on a strike did so and of those, 94 percent endorsed the action. The system has about 23,000 faculty in all.
â€œWe do not want to strike. We want to achieve a settlement, but the administration of the CSU has proven extremely obstinate for the past six months,” Travis said.
In the statement, CSU said the fact-finderâ€™s report would make clear the administration has â€œgone to great lengths” to try to reach a settlement.