Cal State faculty approve strike in salary dispute

The union representing California State University faculty announced Wednesday that members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike in a pay dispute at the nation’s largest university system.

More than 94% of members who cast a ballot voted to authorize job actions up to, and including, a walkout if the union and chancellor’s office are unable to reach a settlement in salary negotiations that began in May, according to the California Faculty Assn. The faculty group did not provide the number of total votes cast.

The two sides are stalled over salary increases for 2015-16, with management offering a 2% across-the-board pay hike and the faculty group demanding a 5% increase with an additional 2.65% boost for faculty at the lower end of the pay scale.

During a news conference at San Jose State University, faculty group President Jennifer Eagan said that the vote was not taken lightly. Faculty, though, feel especially aggrieved because of recent state funding increases for the 23-campus system.

“Faculty are angry and justifiably so,” said Eagan, a professor of philosophy and public affairs at Cal State East Bay. “Cal State is a public institution and they should start acting like one by paying employees like the professionals they are.”

Cal State Chancellor Timothy P. White also was on the San Jose State campus Wednesday for a previously scheduled visit. He addressed the strike authorization and salary dispute before media and at an open forum attended by about 200 people, many of whom were faculty group members wearing red shirts and carrying banners.

Aside from a few chants, the discourse was civil. White spoke of his own background as a faculty member in response to accusations that he is out of touch with the experiences of current faculty. He has previously said that 2% across-the-board pay hikes is a fair way to recognize the value of all employee groups.

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The union represents about 26,000 professors, lecturers, counselors, librarians and athletic coaches.

This was the fourth strike vote taken by the faculty since 2007, but those votes have resulted in only one action, in 2011, when faculty at the East Bay and Dominguez Hills campuses conducted one day strikes.

Cal State officials said that a 2% increase in compensation for all employee groups was part of the state budget request approved by Gov. Jerry Brown and the legislature.

The 2% increase for faculty is valued at about $32.8 million, officials said, and the faculty group's proposal is valued at nearly $102 million, which they argue would prevent investing in enrollment growth and other priorities.

“The result of the California Faculty Assn. strike vote is not unexpected,” said Cal State spokeswoman Toni Molle. “Similar authorizations were requested and approved by CFA members in prior CSU/CFA negotiations, and the strike authorization vote has now become a routine part of CFA’s post-impasse negotiation strategy.”

The two sides ended mediation talks without success and are now are in the process of fact-finding, conducted by a neutral third party. A report is expected in January and if the deadlock is not resolved, strikes could begin afterward.

Meanwhile, the faculty group announced that it will conduct a march and rally Nov. 17 at the system’s Long Beach headquarters during the regular meeting of the board of trustees.

The vote was conducted Oct. 19 to 28.

Twitter:@carlariveralat

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