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Cal Poly faculty 'Occupy the CSU'

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California’s state university faculty, driven by what they call unfairness in labor negotiations with the CSU Chancellor’s Office, is stepping up protests across the state.

About 90 Cal Poly faculty members spent their lunch hour on Nov. 8 picketing in the courtyard in front of the university’s administration building, waving signs reading, “Enough is Enough—Fair Contract Now!” and “We Teach the 99 Percent.”

NO FACULTY LEFT BEHIND :  Cal Poly educators staged a protest in front of the university’s administration building on Nov. 8, calling for fair contract negotiations with the CSU Chancellor’s office. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • NO FACULTY LEFT BEHIND : Cal Poly educators staged a protest in front of the university’s administration building on Nov. 8, calling for fair contract negotiations with the CSU Chancellor’s office.

The protest comes as the California Faculty Association says it’s made major concessions in negotiations, giving up raises between 2008 and 2010 to mitigate decreases in state funding.

“We love our jobs and they know they can squeeze us pretty hard before we break,” said Tom Gutierrez, assistant professor in Cal Poly’s Physics Department.

Glen Thorncroft, president of the San Luis Obispo chapter of the CFA, told New Times the Chancellor’s Office has been unwilling to budge in the process.

“The Chancellor’s Office says that they have to pay for quality people, but they never extend that to [educational] staff,” Thorncroft said. “It just shows that they don’t value us as much as they do the top administrators.”

According to the CFA, faculty compensation has fallen behind inflation, with average salary for faculty dropping by 10 percent since Charles Reed became CSU Chancellor in 1998.

Adding to the frustration, the Chancellor’s Office spent approximately $6 million over the last few years to negotiate, which could have gone to faculty compensation, according to the CFA.

In response to the protest, Cal Poly Provost Robert Koob issued a statement expressing his appreciation of the situation, but said there’s not much the university can do to affect labor negotiations with the CSU system.

Koob noted that the university is in somewhat of the same boat, and has lost about 40 percent of its state funding in the last four years.

 “It has been a significant challenge for the administration and the faculty to manage these cuts without massive layoffs and without irreparably damaging Cal Poly’s quality,” Koob said in the statement.

A spokesman for Chancellor Charles Reed’s office told New Times the protests are a symptom of significant decreases in state funding for higher education in California.

“We’ve made the determination it’s not possible for the CSU to be paying out $20 million to one specific section of employees in a year where we’ve been cut by $584 million,” said CSU spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp.

“We understand their frustration but we’ve been left with no choice,” he added.

Uhlenkamp said faculty have been the only employees who received salary increases since 2007.

In response to the contract stalemate, the CFA voted to participate in at least two one-day strikes at CSU East Bay and CSU Dominguez Hills on Nov. 17.

Thorncroft said Cal Poly staff is considering whether or not to participate in the strike, but if they do, they would take a personal or vacation day to do so.

“Our staff is so dedicated, and the only way we’ll do this is if it won’t hurt the students,” Thorncroft said. “But it seems it’s the only way to get fair treatment from this chancellor.”

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