California State University faculty union prepares for potential strike over salaries

Students walk around Cal State Northridge.
Students walk around Cal State Northridge.
Peter & Joyce Grace/Flickr

The California Faculty Association, the union which represents 25,000 faculty members on the 23 California State University (CSU) campuses, is set to vote on authorizing a potential strike if bargaining over salaries in the second year of the faculty contract is not successful.

"Our basic issue is salary," Jennifer Eagan, president of the California Faculty Association, told KPCC. "The CSU management has only put a 2 percent salary increase on the table for 2015- 2016 for this year of the contract."

Community colleges and K-12 school districts have seen 5 percent raises since recovering from the recession, according to Eagan, adding that CSU's salaries need to catch up. The union rejected a 2 percent increase offered by the university last fall. Eagan said they'd like a 5 percent general increase for everyone.

Eagan said a mediator appointed by the state will talk to both sides to try reaching an agreement."We're in mediation now, we would also go to a fact-finding process where an independent fact finder would sort of review the facts on the bargaining table and issue a report," she said. The union couldn't legally strike until after that process is done. 

"Agreement can be reached at any stage along the collective bargaining process," Laurie Weidner with the CSU Chancellor's Office said."The California State University remains committed to that collective bargaining process."

The decision on what kind of activity the union would engage in would then be up to the board of directors after mediation, Eagan said. The vote scheduled would not mean a strike, but would give union leaders the ability to make that decision for their members. 

But Weidner said that she thinks a strike would affect students.

"A strike is not in the best interest of students," she said. "The CSU continues to value and invest in our faculty and all of our valued employees, while also maintaining a balanced approach to compensation."

"We feel like we're being de-professionalized with low salaries and having so many of our faculty members on contingent part-time contracts," Eagan said. "And we really think that it's time for the CSU faculty to be able to catch up and provide for their families."

The strike authorization vote will take place in October.