Faculty strike canceled, classes to continue as normal

For months, Sonoma State University faculty, staff and students held their collective breath at the prospect of a strike that was scheduled to start on Wednesday and would include all 23 campuses in theCalifornia State University system. But thanks to a last-minute agreement announced on Friday, the strike has been called off and classes will be held as usual this week. The California Faculty Association and the CSU Chancellor’s Office have reached a tentative agreement for a faculty pay raise. Originally, faculty members were asking for a 5 percent increase. The new agreement calls for a 10.5 percent raise overthe next three years.

“I’m absolutely delighted that we’ve reached a tentative agreement with the [California Faculty Association],” said CSU Chancellor Timothy White. “This agreement is great for students in so many ways, first and foremost the fact that there will not be a strike and classes will return as normal during the academic term.”

The faculty strike would have taken place over a five-day period from April 13-15 and 18-19.  Those participating would have been on strike all day, according to the CFA website. They would not be providing classes or checking emails. The strike was rooted in a disagreement between faculty and CSU administrators over a pay increase. The faculty was offered a2 percent raise.

“The staff spoke up for the 5 percent and got it,” said CFA President Jennifer Eagen, “This might be the largest strike that didn’t actually happen.”

According to a fact-finding report published March 18, faculty salaries lagged behind market comparatives in salary. All CSU funds are accounted for and the university cannot spend money it does not have, according to the same report.

According to a dissent signed on March 26 by Bradley Wells, associate vice chancellor of business and finance for the CSU, the University Panel disagreed with the fact-finding report’s proposed 5 percent increase, reporting the cost of this kind of raise would require “more than three times the available funds.”

They did agree that “a multi-year solution is necessary to address the legitimate concern over faculty salaries.”

However, in the most recent tentative agreement, there will be a faculty increase for all existing CSU faculty.  According to the CFA, the agreement calls for a 5 percent general salary increase on June 30.  Then on July 1, the faculty will receive a 2 percent increase. And on July 1, 2017 faculty will receive another3.5 percent general salary increase. The tentative agreement also calls for 2.65 percent step increases for ‘eligible faculty’ in 2017-2018.

“I commend the individuals on both sides and that there was a team effort, I heard the voices of faculty and our students,” said White, “We are able to do this without any cuts; the innovative and creative solution that the CFA crafted is moving the times around when the salary increases actually occurs.”

President of the Sonoma State Chapter of the CFA Elaine Newman believes the organization of the faculty in preparation for the strike is what motivated the CSU to reach this agreement before any further actions were taken.

"Even though we didn’t have to strike, the fact that we were so organized and so prepared to strike meant we didn’t have to,” said Newman.

The CFA website explains that the CSU Net Operating budget is around $5 billion, about $3 billion comes from the state while around $2 billion comes from student tuition and fees. The CSU also manages a reserve of about $2 billion.

The CSU preliminary budget allocation for 2016-2017 lists that the budget allocations include but are not limited to health care, maintenance of facilities, retirement, grants, system wide initiatives, and employee compensation.  

According to the Associated Press, the average salary for CSU faculty is a range anywhere between an average of $96,660 to $58,265 based on if they are full time, part time, assistant professors, and lecturers.

Faculty still have to vote on this initiative in order to receive the raise.