California

Deal to end Cal State strike gives faculty a 10.5% raise over three years

Cal State pay agreement
Cal State Chancellor Timothy P. White, center, at a meeting in March. “We’re actually very pleased about what we were able to craft,” White said of the deal announced Friday.
(Jay. L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Salaries for California State University faculty will increase by 10.5% over three years under a last-minute deal that averted a massive strike at the nation’s largest public university system, officials said Friday.

As part of the deal, the California Faculty Assn., which represents 26,000 faculty members, agreed to double the time it takes for a professor to be vested for retiree health benefits.

Faculty hired on or after July 1, 2017, would be eligible for retiree health benefits after 10 years of service, instead of five.

The compromise comes as plans were being finalized for an unprecedented five-day strike that was set to begin Wednesday and would have disrupted operations across all 23 campuses.

Friday’s tentative agreement needs final approval by union members and the Cal State Board of Trustees.

University officials and union leaders, who were at odds for almost a year, adopted a far more amicable tone.

“We’re actually very pleased about what we were able to craft here,” Chancellor Timothy P. White said in an interview. He expressed relief that students would be “spared the interruption of the strike” and agreed with a key union argument.

“When you invest in faculty, you invest in students’ learning and students’ success,” he said. “Also when you invest in faculty, it allows the academic departments to recruit and retain the very best faculty.”

Union leaders presented data they said underscored that faculty were underpaid compared with peers at comparable institutions. In a report issued last week, an independent mediator largely sided with their position.

“We made the case that our faculty have been languishing financially for a decade, both through the data and the real-life stories of faculty who have been struggling with whether they could personally afford to stay and teach in the CSU,” union President Jennifer Eagan said.

Friday’s deal was supported by key lawmakers who will be crucial in securing more state funding for the system.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) noted that Gov. Jerry Brown has set aside an additional $125 million for CSU in the 2016-17 budget, and lawmakers are working to increase that number in the coming months.

“It’s one of the last affordable public education opportunities we have in the U.S,” he said in an interview. “I’m a graduate of the Cal State system, so many of my colleagues are either graduates of the Cal State system, were professors, or both. ... We all understand the extent to which it’s especially helpful to working-class families.”

The deal accommodates the union’s demand for a 5% general raise on June 30. On July 1, a 2% raise will take effect, giving faculty essentially a 7% salary increase.

In July 2017, the remaining 3.5% increase will be added, and faculty who qualify for service credit will receive an additional 2.65% increase.

All told, the 10.5% increase will cost the Cal State system about $200 million, White said. Administrators have identified about $68 million so far. White had argued that the faculty demands would mean less funding to increase enrollment and support vital student programs. But because the salary increases will now be paid out over time, funding for these priorities will not be cut, he said.

Some were disappointed that the salary boost will not be retroactive. But overall, Friday’s agreement “really helped boost morale,” said D.D. Wills, an anthropology professor at Cal Poly Pomona.

Students can now focus attention on finishing the semester, said Taylor Herren, a graduate student at the Chico campus who is president of the Cal State Student Assn.

If we’re all in this together moving forward,” Herren said, “it also will help us put a collective voice forward when it comes to holding the Legislature accountable for more funding for the CSU.”

rosanna.xia@latimes.com

Twitter: @RosannaXia

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