CSU faculty union holds strike authorization vote

The union representing faculty at Fresno State and the rest of the California State University system is in the middle of holding a nine-day vote to authorize a strike if salary negotiations fail.

The bargaining process began in May when both the CSU and California Faculty Association (CFA) teams tried to get salary agreements in year two of the faculty contract – the 2015-16 academic school year, said Alice Sunshine, the CFA communications director.

The CFA called the vote after the second mediation session between the union and the CSU failed on October 8 for a new collective bargaining agreement.

The last agreement between the CFA and the university system lasted from Sept. 18, 2012 – June 30, 2014.

At heart of contention in the ongoing negotiations is how much of a raise faculty will get in the next bargaining agreement. The CSU is proposing a 2 percent increase, while the CFA is proposing a 5 percent increase.

CSU’s Labor Relations Dept. released a statement that said:

“The CSU remains committed to reaching a negotiated agreement with CFA through the collective bargaining process. Compensating employees and recruiting and retaining high‐quality faculty and staff are among the CSU’s top priorities”

The third-party mediator overseeing the negotiations, selected by the CSU and CFA from a list provided by the state Public Employment Review Board, has certified both parties for fact finding. This allows both the CFA and the CSU to present the case for each of their salary proposals.

“Faculty have been talking about how difficult it is to be taken seriously in the bargaining by the CSU managers,” Sunshine said. “The CFA decided to ask the membership would they authorize job actions, for example a strike, in case the last step doesn’t get anywhere.”

Faculty were notified of the ongoing process through emails from CFA, and invitations of bargaining meetings. The CFA also sent chapter officers to all of the CSU campuses in September to speak with all faculty.

“The chapter of each campus organized groups of people to go around and walk the hallways, knock on the office doors, talk to the other faculty members, and hand them flyers of the events like the rally on Thursday,” Sunshine said. “There are different events on different campuses and we encourage people to attend those.”

Events across the CSU’s 23 campuses were held by the CFA to get its approximately 25,000 faculty members to vote during the nine-day period that started on October 19 and ends next Wednesday.

CFA’s Fresno State chapter held its event on Thursday in front of the Kennel Bookstore.

Diane Blair, communication professor and president for the campus CFA chapter, said that the event wasn’t just held to raise awareness among its union members to vote.

“But to also show our solidarity with students and with staff on campus, because we’re all in this together,” Blair said.

Blair said that the whole goal of the bargaining negotiations between the CFA and the CSU is to ultimately improve the well-being of the CSU.

“You have to start in the classroom in order to do that and the faculty are the ones in the classroom,” she said.

Blair wanted students to understand that a strike isn’t an outcome faculty wants.

“I think it’s important for students to understand that faculty don’t want to strike,” she said. “We don’t want to walk out of the classroom. But after seven years no salary increases and then last year getting a 1.6 percent general salary increase for most of our faculty realize they have to stand up for themselves, because who else is gonna do it for them?”

The 5 percent salary increase was determined through polls taken by the CFA members and examination of the CSU’s finances, as well as this year’s available funding from the state.

“CFA members worked very hard to convince the legislature of the need for the funding that was over and above what the governor had proposed initially in his budget plan for this year,” Sunshine added.

Blair said the negotiations and the strike vote events are good things for the students to witness.

“We think that this is actually a good thing for students to see us doing,” Blair said. “That we can serve as role models for our students in terms of the power of collective action and the power of advocating for yourself and for the value of the work that you do.”

Blair said that the strike vote is being used to get CSU Chancellor Timothy White’s office to return to the bargaining process.

“What we’re hoping is that with an overwhelming majority of faculty, if they support the strike vote, that might be enough to get the chancellor to come back to the table and start negotiating with us,” Blair said.

Blair also said that they had to be ready for a strike while they remain hopeful that such a situation doesn’t happen.

“We’re still going through the legal statutory process and we always hope that a satisfactory resolution will be reached in that process,” Blair said. “But we just have to be ready to act in case that doesn’t happen and so that’s why we’re taking the vote now.”

Asst. News Editor Diana Giraldo contributed to this story.

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