In a bold move that reverberated across four California State University campuses, faculty members initiated a strike on Monday, demanding increased remuneration and an extension of parental leave for the multitude of employees encompassed within the most significant public university system in the United States. The California Faculty Association, a formidable representative body comprising 29,000 workers, orchestrated one-day work stoppages at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, San Francisco State University, California State University in Los Angeles, and California State University in Sacramento.
At the epicentre of their demands is a resounding call for a 12% salary hike, coupled with a notable expansion of parental leave from a modest six weeks to a more substantial period spanning an entire academic semester. This plea extends to professors and encompasses librarians and other essential staff. The faculty union is also lobbying for more manageable workloads, enhanced accessibility to breastfeeding stations, and increased gender-inclusive restrooms.
Anne Luna, President of the faculty union’s Sacramento chapter, articulated the imperative need for a financial uplift and improved benefits, given the escalating costs of rent, groceries, childcare, and other essential expenditures in recent years. In a resolute statement, Luna asserted, “They can afford to provide fair compensation and safe working conditions. It’s time to stop funnelling tuition and taxpayer money into a top-heavy administration.”
The crux of the issue lies in the growing disparagement between administrative salaries and those of professors and lecturers. Between 2007 and 2022, the base salaries of CSU presidents skyrocketed by an average of 43%, while the chancellor’s base salary surged by 38%, escalating from $451,500 to a substantial $625,000, as reported by CalMatters.
In stark contrast, professors witnessed a comparatively modest 30% pay increase, averaging $93,643 to $122,016, during the same period. Simultaneously, salaries for lecturers experienced a 22% rise, reaching an average of $71,255 per year for those engaged in full-time positions, according to the outlet’s findings.
The California State University chancellor’s office contends that meeting the union’s demands would incur a staggering $380 million in new recurring spending for the system. This figure surpasses the increased funding allocated by the state for the 2023-24 academic year by a significant $150 million, as asserted by the office.
The Vice-Chancellor for Human Resources, Leora Freedman, emphasized the university system’s commitment to fair compensation and competitive benefits while underscoring the necessity for fiscal sustainability. “We recognize the need to increase compensation and are committed to doing so, but our financial commitments must be fiscally sustainable,” Freedman affirmed, expressing respect for the workers’ right to strike and a determination to minimize campus disruptions.
The union’s decision to strike was not taken lightly. Having unanimously voted to call a strike, the board of directors garnered resounding support from 95% of its members during an October vote on the matter. This widespread backing underscores the faculty’s concerns and urgency in addressing the prevailing issues.
Beyond the purview of the faculty union, other California State University workers are rallying for better pay and negotiating rights. Teamsters Local 2010, representing plumbers, electricians, and maintenance workers within the university system, staged a one-day strike last month advocating for improved compensation. Moreover, student workers across the university system’s 23 campuses gained eligibility in October to vote for the formation of a union.
Jason Rabinowitz, Secretary-Treasurer for Teamsters Local 2010, affirmed the union’s solidarity with the faculty union, emphasizing the substantial pay disparities between skilled workers at CSU and their counterparts at the University of California campuses. “Teamsters will continue to stand together and with our fellow unions until CSU treats our members, faculty, and all workers at CSU with the fairness we deserve,” Rabinowitz declared in a resolute statement.
This strike unfolds against a pivotal year for labour movements, with healthcare professionals, Hollywood actors and writers, and auto workers already raising their voices for improved pay and working conditions. It coincides with recent California laws that grant workers more paid sick leave and augment wages for healthcare and fast-food workers. Notably, the echoes of last year’s month-long strike by teaching assistants and graduate student workers at the University of California linger, disrupting classes as the fall semester drew to a close.