After 22 months of discussions and mediation between California State University and its faculty association, negotiations have stopped. That could lead to the largest university strike in state history.
Starting Monday, faculty at all 23 Cal State campuses will start a two-week vote to decide whether their union should launch a statewide strike.
If the yes votes win, instructors would launch a series of two-day “rolling strikes,” with faculty at each CSU campus walking out on different days.
Bargaining committee chair Andy Merrifield, who teaches political science at Sonoma State, said the union and management are at an impasse. He described the problem as the Circuit City model.
"If you remember, Circuit City got rid of their long-time employees, cut the pay of the employees that stayed behind, cut back the number of employees and as a result of that, put out a lousy product and went bankrupt," Merrifield said.
Cal State acknowledges that the system has deliberately reduced its tenured staff, but spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp said state budget cuts have limited the university’s options.
"If you have a full-time faculty member, they’re on for the long haul," said Uhlenkamp. "Because of the budget cuts, we have become a little bit more reliant on part-time lecturers."
Faculty association bargaining chair Merrifield said the union wants to continue an agreement that offers staff three-year contracts, and faculty pay raises on par with other state agency step increases.
Cal State officials say the faculty association’s proposals would cost the system well over $500 million over the life of the agreement.
For both sides, the next steps include a fact-finding process that should result in a neutral recommendation for further negotiations.
A faculty strike could start at the end of the spring term.