Members of the California Faculty Association at a protest last year. California State University employees have overwhelmingly voted to authorize a series of two-day strikes if a new contract cannot be reached.
Faculty at the 23 Cal State campuses voted overwhelmingly to authorize an ongoing series of rolling two-day strikes, if their negotiators fail to make a deal with the University.
Lillian Taiz, the President of the California Faculty Association, said the 95 percent vote in favor of striking showed that the Cal State faculty are fed up.
"The message to Chancellor Reed is absolutely clear, The CSU faculty have run out of patience. It is time to address seriously the issues before us so that our faculty can get back to the business of providing quality higher education to the students of California," Taiz said.
Mike Uhlenkamp, the Cal State spokesman didn't seem anxious about the possible strike.
"This is more noise from the CFA that really has no bearing whatsoever on our current negotiations," he said.
"Our bargaining team has indicated that there are a limited number of outstanding issues that need resolution."
At the center of the dispute are disagreements over pay and how professors advance at Cal State campuses. Until now, professors only needed to work for six years to become eligible for a guaranteed 3-year contract. Now the university says it wants to consider performance evaluations before offering the three-year contract. The union says that’s a deal breaker.
The union also wants $7 million it says are owed from previous contracts – and it wants a one percent pay raise.
But Uhlenkamp says in light of the billions of dollars in cuts the system has faced in recent years, Cal State is unlikely to agree to a pay raise.
"Right now it’s not something we’re really entertaining and you know, we have another $200 million cut looming," Uhlenkamp said. Still, he says he’s optimistic about the chances of reaching a settlement.
The head of the union bargaining team, Andy Merrifield, also hopes the two sides can avoid a work stoppage.
"Our hope this time when they come back we’re all ready to go and the talk of the strike will go away but that will depend on how it goes at the bargaining table," explained Merrifield.
Both sides are meeting over the next couple of days to gauge whether to continue negotiations or jump to the final stage of the process: bringing in a neutral third party to recommend a deal. Union officials say the process will likely stretch into the fall.