California State University Faculty Continue To Demand Fair Pay and Improved BenefitsBy Joy Liwanag
Faculty members at California State University (CSU), the largest public university system in the U.S., have initiated a series of one-day strikes across four campuses to advocate for higher pay and enhanced benefits.
The California Faculty Association, representing approximately 29,000 workers on 23 campuses, is spearheading this effort, demanding a 12% salary raise, an extension of parental leave from six weeks to a full semester, manageable workloads, improved breastfeeding facilities, and more gender-inclusive restrooms.
The Strikes Unfold
The strikes commenced at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, known as Cal Poly Pomona, where hundreds of faculty members picketed to kick off the campaign. Similar strikes are planned at San Francisco State University, California State University, Los Angeles, and California State University, Sacramento.
Maria Gisela Sanchez, a counselor at Cal Poly Pomona, expressed the spirit of the strike, emphasizing the need to preserve the integrity of the public education system. The union argues that fair compensation and improved working conditions are essential components of a robust public education system that should benefit everyone.
Union Demands and University Response
In addition to the 12% salary increase and extended parental leave, the faculty union is calling for more manageable workloads, better breastfeeding stations, and increased gender-inclusive restrooms. The California State University chancellor's office estimates that meeting these demands would cost the system $380 million in new recurring spending, exceeding the state's increased funding for the system in the 2023-24 academic year by $150 million.
Leora Freedman, the vice chancellor for human resources, acknowledges the need to increase compensation but emphasizes the importance of fiscal sustainability. The university respects the right to strike and aims to minimize disruptions on campuses.
Despite the strike, Cal Poly Pomona announced that the campus would remain open, and some faculty would continue to hold classes. Striking instructors informed students about cancellations and provided instructions for the next class. The university administration seeks to balance the right to strike with maintaining the continuity of education.
Kate Ozment, an English assistant professor and assembly delegate for the union's Cal Poly Pomona chapter, highlighted the financial challenges faced by faculty members. She pointed out that the current salary structure often excludes those without generational wealth or two-income households. Ozment also stressed the need for an extended parental leave, citing its impact on class continuity and the ability of professors to manage their personal and professional lives effectively.
Wider Labor Issues within CSU
Beyond faculty concerns, other workers within the California State University system are also advocating for better pay and bargaining rights. Teamsters Local 2010, representing plumbers, electricians, and maintenance workers, held a one-day strike last month. The skilled workers argue that they have been paid less than counterparts at the University of California campuses in similar roles. The Teamsters plan to strike in solidarity with the faculty union.
The faculty strikes at California State University underscore the broader national trend of labor activism. As faculty members demand fair pay and improved benefits, the strikes prompt discussions about the role of education in society and the treatment of those who contribute to its success. The outcomes of these strikes may shape the future of labor relations within the university system and contribute to ongoing conversations about equitable compensation and working conditions in the education sector.
RELATED ARTICLE: Failed Contract Negotiations At CSU Push Faculty To Strike