California State University faculty to vote on strike

A threatened strike by California State University faculty could extend to all 23 campuses of the nation's largest public university system if an impasse over raises is not resolved, faculty union officials said Wednesday.

The California Faculty Assn. announced last week that it will conduct a 10-day vote beginning Oct. 19 on whether to walk out of classes amid stalled contract negotiations with the chancellor's office.

The two sides are in mediation 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.

The union represents about 25,000 professors, lecturers, counselors, librarians and athletic coaches.

During a call with media Wednesday, union leaders said all options are on the table, from one-day strikes at selected campuses to rolling strikes that extend to all colleges in the system as well as other job actions.

In 2011, faculty at the East Bay and Dominguez Hills campuses conducted one day strikes. 

Leading up to the current negotiations, the union released a series of reports detailing low morale, stagnant wages and reductions in workforce for faculty, while pay and positions for executives increased, they allege.

Union officials said part of their proposal is based on Cal State's success in winning an additional $269 million in state funding -- its full budget request -- for 2015-16, after a campaign that included intensive lobbying by faculty and students.

"It's time for management to wake up and realize that they can't keep acting like corporate CEO's," said Kevin Wehr, a Sacramento State sociology professor who is chairman of the bargaining team.

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

The 2% increase for faculty is valued at about $32.8 million and represents nearly half the new money designated for all raises, said Cal State spokeswoman Laurie Weidner. By contrast, the faculty group's proposal is valued at nearly $102 million.

Such a figure would carve into other priorities, including increasing enrollment, Weidner said.

"The university has a commitment to faculty compensation and to all employee groups but also a responsibility to address a mission that includes hiring new faculty, enrollment growth, improving and repairing facilities and investing in the kinds of services and programs we know can enhance degree completion," Weidner said.   

The next mediation session is scheduled for Oct. 8 in Sacramento.

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