Faculty association votes to strike

In a crowded classroom filled with reporters and faculty in the engineering building of San Jose State University, the California Faculty Association held the CFA Voting Results Conference, marking a new chapter in the wage dispute between the association and the California State University. 

From Oct. 19-28, the faculty association held a strike authorization vote after attempts to get the Office of the Chancellor and the Board of Trustees to grant a 5 percent raise in wage instead of the offered 2 percent raise. The faculty of the university system overwhelmingly voted to authorize the association’s leadership to put a strike in motion, or other concerted activities.

“For those of you not in here in the room, that union clap was because of the 94.4 percent vote to strike,” said Jennifer Eagen, president of the Association and professor at CSU East Bay.

With such a high percentage of faculty members ready to use their economic weapons of strike,  it’s clear that the association is ready to stand up and send a clear message to the Chancellor’s Office.  According to Andy Merrifield, member of the bargaining team for the California Faculty Association, the message the faculty association wants to send is a 2 percent raise is not a fair amount and until 5 percent is proposed, the association will not budge.

“Maybe a 94.4 [percent] strike vote will get their attention,” said Kevin Wear, chairman of the association’s bargaining team. “Because their 2 percent proposal is terrible.”

According to a statement released by the Office of the Chancellor, the university system wants to ensure that students and spectators alike understand that the results of this vote allows leadership of the association to permit a strike only after the statutory process has run its course and both sides are still unable to reach an agreement.  As of right now, it’s clear where both parties stand, but how do the students in the California State University system feel about a possible strike if a solution cannot be found?

“I believe that the faculty is not asking for too much,” said Grant Peters, freshman at Sonoma State. “Everyone that works to keep this university system going deserves to make a reasonable living, especially those who prepare the next generation of workers and innovators.”

The reason the CSU cites for not allowing a 5 percent wage increase is based on budget; the budget the California State University system has been allotted does not allow for a raise in faculty wages, according to officials.

"It is hard for the CSU administration to grant the raise with money they do not have,” said Jacob Virissimo, freshman computer science major at Sonoma State University. ”It’s like tying their hands behind their back and telling them to get out of the rope.”

With a new page being turned, the chapter of fact-finding can begin.  Even though the faculty did vote in favor of an authorization of a strike, nothing they voted to allow can take place until the statutory process has run its course; the statutory process is the last chance both sides get to find an agreement before the association turns to using its economic weapon – a strike. 

The process begins later this month and continues through early December, meaning if a strike were to commence, it would take place early next year.  Although this strike vote is attracting quite the buzz, it’s not the first time the faculty have resorted to this measure. In fact, the faculty have had four strike authorization votes, with one leading to strikes at the campuses of Cal State East Bay and Cal State Dominguez Hills.

“The CSU is a public institution and it should start acting like one by paying their employees a decent wage,” said Eagen.

The next demonstration that is catching the eyes of the public is scheduled to be held on Nov. 17 in Long Beach where the Board of Trustees will be meeting with the Office of the Chancellor.  Faculty from all 23 campuses, students and the association’s labor and community allies will be there ready to make a statement to the Chancellor regarding their proposition.