L.A. Now

Cal State faculty get support for possible strike from Los Angeles union members

If the long-running dispute over faculty salaries at Cal State University culminates in a strike, the professors on the picket lines will have the support of fellow union workers in Los Angeles County.

Rusty Hicks, executive director of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, announced Tuesday that the unions he represents will support CSU faculty and professional staff if a strike comes to pass in the coming weeks or months.

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FOR THE RECORD

An earlier version of this story said the union representing Cal State University faculty and staff failed to authorize a strike on Tuesday. The question of whether to authorize a strike was not under consideration.

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The roughly 800,000 people represented by the local labor organization would support the strikers by refusing to enter Cal State campuses to deliver packages or make repairs, among other possible consequences.

"We are standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity," Hicks said. 

Fourteen other labor councils throughout the state have already announced their support for the CSU workers, labor leaders said.

The California Faculty Assn. and Cal State administrators have been deadlocked since June over salary increases for the 2015-16 academic year.

The union, which represents nearly 26,000 professors, lecturers, counselors, librarians and athletic coaches at the 23-campus system, has demanded a general 5% pay hike. Cal State Chancellor Timothy P. White has offered a 2% increase.

Union members say they are underpaid after going without a raise for five years before getting a 1.34% increase in 2013 and a 1.6% boost in 2014. More than half of Cal State faculty make less than $38,000 a year in gross earnings, according to the union.

Cal State administrators dispute the union's figures and say tenure-track faculty hired as assistant professors had a base pay of $72,519 in 2014 for 9½ months of work.

Administrators also said that a 5% increase wouldn't leave enough money to increase enrollment and address other priorities for the system that served about 460,000 students in 2014.

Last fall, 94% of the union's voting members authorized a strike if no salary deal could be reached.

Both sides in the dispute are now awaiting completion of a fact-finding report for the state, said Alice Sunshine, a spokeswoman for the union. If that report doesn’t bring the two sides together, the union’s elected leaders could call a strike. That wouldn’t happen for several weeks at the soonest.

"Faculty are ready and willing" to go on strike, said union President Jennifer Eagan, a professor at Cal State East Bay in Hayward. 

Faculty have taken four strike votes since 2007 but held one action only, when employees at the East Bay and Dominguez Hills campuses conducted one-day strikes.

The union filed an unfair labor practice complaint against management in November, alleging that White and others were negotiating in bad faith. That matter has not been resolved.

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