Strike vote at CSU

The CSU East Bay Strike on November 17 (California Faculty Assn/www.calfac.org/)

The California Faculty Association called for a strike vote last Tuesday as contract negotiations with the California State University administration entered deadlock after 18 months.

The CFA board of directors unanimously passed a resolution last Tuesday to ask CSU faculty union members to vote on whether to give the board authorization to call a system-wide strike if mediation and fact-finding, the next two steps in the negotiation process, continue to yield no results.

“We are reaching the end of negotiations,” said Brian Ferguson, communications specialist with the CFA, “and things aren’t going well.”

For the past 18 months, the CFA bargaining team has been in negotiation with the CSU chancellor’s office over a new work contract for CSU faculty, after the previous contract expired on Jun. 30, 2010. However, talks have become stagnant as the two sides refused to budge on several important articles.

“One of them has to do with moving more and more classes into the for-profit arm of the CSU, which is often called Extension,” Ferguson said. “Faculty get paid less to teach these courses, students pay more in order to register for [them]. We think these courses offer less to students and don’t create a learning environment that’s as good as what’s available in the traditional arm of the university.”

Although the two parties have reached consensus on most of the more than 40 articles in the new contract, the CFA is still concerned about some of the proposals offered by the chancellor that they believe would ultimately degrade the quality of education.

“With budget cuts in CSU over the last couple years, class size has increased with less faculty members on campus, less support staff, more advising work, more of the other sort of community work that often times goes unseen,” Ferguson said. “It has been very unsettling for faculty and they’ve seen their workload increase substantially over the last few years.”

He adds, “We’ve said for a long time that student learning conditions are faculty teaching conditions, and we think that still holds true.”

Saddleback College student Madison Zraick, 23, communication, saw both sides.

“I understand where they are coming from with the budget cuts, because we do have to start finding ways to be more efficient with everything,” Zraick said. “But at the same time, no bonuses for working overtime or anything like that is pretty bad. The students suffer in a way because they don’t get as much attention. The teachers are tired.”

But Irvine Valley College student T. J. Yarcia, 18, undeclared, was worried that overstressed instructors may negatively affect the quality of education.

“I think it’s the right thing to do from their perspective because if they are forced to work more hours with less pay, then that’s just basically bogus then,” Yarcia said. “If you’re going to work more hours, you might as well get more money. But if they are going to be stuck with the same amount of pay for more hours, then what’s the point in really working.”

The voting will take place between Apr. 16 and 27 on each of the 23 campuses. A majority vote is required to grant the CFA authorization to call a strike.

“To be clear, we don’t want to strike,” Ferguson said. “We’d like to continue to work at the bargaining table and reach an agreement, but taking this step is something that enables us to put in motion an action that we can take if negotiations don’t work out.”

The CFA is a labor union composed of 23,000 members from professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches in the CSU system, according to the CFA website.

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