Cal State faculty, students expected to press trustees on pay raises, tuition at Long Beach meeting

Cal State faculty members are expected to press their case for pay raises Tuesday at a Board of Trustees meeting -- perhaps their last chance to jump-start stalled negotiations before potential strikes in April.

More than 26,000 professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches represented by the California Faculty Assn. are threatening to strike April 13-15 and April 18-19 if no agreement is reached to end the yearlong stalemate with Cal State administrators.

University officials have said that campuses will remain open and that many classes will continue to meet. Cal State is the nation’s largest four-year higher education system, with about 460,000 students spread among 23 campuses.

The faculty union is demanding a 5% pay raise, while Chancellor Timothy P. White is offering 2%, which he says is in line with increases given to other employee groups this year.

An independent mediator will issue a report later this month. Ten days after its release, the faculty would be authorized to strike.

The contract negotiations will be up for discussion Tuesday by the trustees’ Collective Bargaining Committee.

The faculty have some important allies on their side. The powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor has announced that its members would not cross picket lines at five local campuses, echoing promises made in other cities. In addition, the California Democratic Party has endorsed the 5% pay demand at its recent state convention in San Jose.

White, however, has argued that a 5% pay hike would cost $102 million, far more than the $33 million a 2% increase would require. The more expensive plan would siphon money from other priorities, such as academic programs and increasing student enrollment.

He has presented his case at a series of campus tours up and down the state, often facing tough questions from faculty members and students.

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Some of that questioning also has been directed at proposals to begin instituting small, annual tuition increases, possibly tied to inflation.

White says this would provide students and their families more predictability in planning for education costs and would avoid the need for dramatic tuition hikes.

But the idea, part of a long-range financial stability plan, has raised the eyebrows of state lawmakers and students alike.

Trustees will get an update on the plan Tuesday.  Trustees are also scheduled to announce appointments of new presidents for the Channel Islands and Chico campuses.

The board is scheduled to meet Tuesday and Wednesday in Long Beach.

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