Chanting and picket lines could disrupt the pastoral calm of Cal Poly SLO’s scenic campus, after stalled contract negotiations between California State University System management and one CSU faculty union raised the possibility of a strike.
The California Faculty Association, which represents roughly 25,000 lecturers, adjuncts, librarians, counselors, and coaches on CSU’s 23 campuses, including Cal Poly SLO, announced it will conduct a vote among its members to authorize potential “job actions,” including a possible strike, if its current collective bargaining process with the CSU system management isn’t resolved.
“That would include our campus,” said Graham Archer, president of the Cal Poly SLO chapter of the CFA, which has about 700 members. “Unfortunately, it is quite serious. Negotiations have essentially broken down.”
At the crux of the stalled negations is the issue of faculty pay increases in 2015-2016. The CFA is asking for a 5 percent general salary increase after rejecting the CSU management’s offer of a 2 percent raise. So far, the CSU management has rejected the union’s demands. The strike authorization vote, which will take place online and in-person at CSU campuses from Oct. 19 through 28, would allow CFA to call for a strike on CSU campuses should attempts to reach an agreement fail.
The contentious negotiations come after a year of rising tensions over increasing pay for CSU management and administrators, while pay for faculty remained relatively stagnant.
“Our message is clear. CSU management must redirect their misplaced spending priorities and temper their obsession with executive compensation,” Jennifer Eagan, CFA’s president, said in a recent press release. “It’s time to put the CSU’s money where it belongs, with the people who teach and mentor students.”
The issue was a major point of contention between Cal Poly faculty and the university’s administration in the last school year. In May, the academic senate met and passed a non-binding resolution raising concerns over the university’s increased spending on hiring well-paid management positions, while hiring and pay for faculty languished. Shortly after that vote, faculty and students staged a protest in front of Cal Poly President Jeffery Armstrong’s office.
“You have to realize that administrative salaries are far in excess of the average faculty salary,” Archer said. “The admins are doing very well, and the faculty is doing very poorly.”
At the start of a new year at Cal Poly, Archer said the issue remains unresolved. He believes the campus’s CFA members would vote for the strike authorization. If a strike were to occur, it would mean a dramatic change for staff and students on campus.
A strike would involve classes being canceled, and “the staff would be out at every entrance to campus with signs,” Archer said. “We would shut it down. It’s a horrible scenario, and the opposite of what we want.”
While the strike vote looms over Cal Poly and the 22 other CSU campuses, mediation and negotiations between the CFA and CSU management continue. In a written response to questions from New Times, CSU system spokesman Toni Molle said the organization remained committed to the collective bargaining process and reaching a negotiated agreement.
“We are doing what we can, with finite resources, to address employee compensation while maintaining our commitment to other mission-central priorities that support student success and completion, such as enrollment growth, technology infrastructure, facilities, and program development,” Molle wrote. “A balanced approach to compensation is vital.”