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California

Cal State Chancellor enters talks with faculty union to avert massive strike

Pay dispute

Supporters and members of the California Faculty Assn. attend a meeting of Cal State trustees in Long Beach on March 8.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

California State University officials and the union that represents 26,000 faculty members said they are hopeful that a long-running salary dispute might be resolved by Friday, which would avert a massive strike planned for next week at the system’s 23 campuses.

University officials resumed talks on Wednesday with the California Faculty Assn., and “for the first time, included the direct participation of the Chancellor,” Jennifer Eagan, the union’s president, wrote in a letter to members.

Both parties have agreed to hold off on strike preparations during a two-day “blackout period,” and also agreed to refrain from talking publicly about the negotiations.

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“At the conclusion of the 48 hours we will either have a tentative agreement or it will be full speed ahead towards the strike,” Eagan wrote.

The union has already approved a strike for April 13-15 and April 18-19.

The faculty group has demanded a 5% pay raise, citing studies that show Cal State has the money to do so and that faculty members are underpaid compared to those at other public institutions.

University officials, facing financial pressures since state budget cuts during the recession, said there’s only room in the budget for a 2% raise, with additional increases possible in the future.

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An independent mediator released a report last week that sided with the union and said a 5% raise was warranted. The Cal State Board of Trustees met earlier this week to discuss the report’s conclusions.

In a meeting last week with The Times’ editorial board, Cal State Chancellor Timothy P. White said he was sympathetic to the faculty union’s position.

The challenge, he said, is balancing faculty compensation against the costs of higher enrollment, academic support programs and much-needed maintenance and upgrades to buildings and technology.

Ultimately, every one of Cal State’s top priorities is underfunded, he said. 

“What is the least lousy decision to make?” White said.

Follow @RosannaXia for more education news. 

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