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Cal State faculty to embark on unprecedented systemwide, weeklong strike
California State University faculty are embarking on an unprecedented weeklong strike, marking the first time ever the entire system has taken such action.
The faculty, numbering over 29,000 members, are demanding higher wages and a return to negotiations from the administration.
As a result of the strike, nearly 450,000 students across Cal State’s 23 campuses will miss the first few weeks of classes this semester or quarter. Professors and instructors will stand on picket lines.
At Cal Poly Pomona, English professor Kate Ozment has been unable to meet her students due to the coinciding of the first week of classes with the strike. Ozment notified her students through the Canvas online learning management system, giving them an explanation for the strike and an outline of the course schedule during the work stoppage.
Ozment will not be grading assignments or leading instruction during the strike, instead encouraging her students to work independently.
Journalism senior Arabel Meyer at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo was informed by all three of her instructors that their classes were canceled due to the strike. Although Meyer recognizes the potential academic setback, she also sees the positive side of a “week off.” She understands the financial difficulties faced by professors and supports their striking.
According to faculty union demands, a 12% increase in salary is being sought, alongside other requests such as pay equity, manageable workloads with increased support for students, and more counselors for mental health services.
CSU FAculty demands
- 12% pay raises to stay ahead of inflation.
- Pay equity and raising the floor for lowest-paid faculty.
- Manageable workloads that allow for more support and engagement with students.
- More counselors to improve students’ much-needed access to mental health services.
- Expanding paid parental leave to a full semester.
- Accessible lactation and milk storage spaces for lactating faculty.
- Safe gender-inclusive restrooms and changing rooms.
- Safety provisions for faculty interacting with university police on campuses.
Cal State Chancellor Mildred Garcia acknowledges that the faculty deserve a pay increase. She expressed willingness to return to negotiations, emphasizing the financial constraints within which the university system operates. Although classes will continue as scheduled during the strike, individual faculty members will cancel their own classes, and students are advised to check their portals for updates.
Christina Checel, CSU’s vice chancellor for labor and employee relations, assured students that advising, financial aid, and other services will be provided despite the strike. The university system’s administration walked away from the bargaining table earlier this month, proposing a 5% pay raise from January. The faculty union, however, finds this offer insulting.
Leora Freedman, CSU’s vice chancellor for human resources, states that faculty demands would cost a total of $380 million per year, an amount currently unfeasible for the system. She explains that the CSU already allocates 75% of its operating budget to compensation and that accepting the union’s demands would result in program cuts, employee layoffs, and a challenge to the university’s educational mission.
A disagreement arises over the university system’s financial capacity, with faculty union members disputing the administration’s claims. The union released an independent study conducted by an Eastern Michigan University professor, which suggests that CSU possesses $8.2 billion in reserves and cash investments.
The university system has faced criticism for granting salary increases to campus presidents and hiring a new chancellor, despite the system’s budget deficit. Steve Relyea, CSU’s vice chancellor and chief financial officer, argues that much of the cited $8 billion cannot be used for salaries due to prior commitments. Even if an agreement is reached, negotiations for the next faculty contract will begin in the spring.
The possibility of future strikes looms if salary disagreements persist between CSU and the faculty union. Students recognize the need for change and show support for the faculty.
California Student Journalism Corps member Delilah Brumer contributed to this report.