by Timothy Sandoval
About a dozen Sacramento State University faculty members set up shop near the university library to enlist support and sign up other faculty to authorize a possible strike because of stalled contract negotiations with the chancellor’s office.
About 24,000 members of the California Faculty Association across the 23-campus California State University system started voting Monday on whether to give its board of directors the ability to authorize a strike that would take place next fall.
CSU faculty want a 1 percent raise and more job security for temporary faculty, but CSU administrators have said this is not feasible considering that the system has lost $970 million in state funding since 2008.
Faculty at the sign-up table at California State University, Sacramento, handed out shirts that said, “I don’t want to strike, but I will!”
“We have not had a raise in four years,” said campus CFA President Kevin Wehr. “The chancellor’s office has offered nothing on the table except for take-back proposals that would reduce the rights that faculty currently enjoy.”
Currently, part-time lecturers in the CSU system are given automatic three-year contracts to work after they have lectured for six years.
Administrators now want the contract to be contingent on a review of the faculty’s performance.
Administrators want to scale back the amount the system pays for faculty taking time off to do union work.
The faculty association has taken issue with these proposals.
Jennifer Murphy, assistant professor of sociology at CSUS, said she volunteered to help the CFA on Monday because she has been adversely affected by cutbacks in recent years. Murphy said she had to defer paying her student loans in 2009 as she took pay cuts due to furloughs and was never given a raise.
“For me, this is very much about the administration’s lack of respect for faculty and students,” Murphy said.
Fundi Kiburi, an ethnic studies lecturer at Sacramento State, brought his class over to the sign-up table where his students were handed some reading materials from CFA volunteers. Kiburi and several of his students declined a request for an interview.
Yeimi Lopez, an ethnic studies major who was not in Kiburi’s class, sat with three other students on a bench handing out reading materials and making signs in support of the faculty union.
Lopez, 22, said there was a lot at stake for students.
“The fact that our faculty are being overworked and getting more students affects me because I am getting less one-on-one time with my professor,” Lopez said. “If they are not rehiring faculty, that means they are going to try to cram more students into less sections. So it’s about the quality of education.”
Democratic Assemblyman Richard Pan, Bill Camp, executive secretary for Sacramento Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO and Ken Cooley, an 8th District Assembly candidate, showed up to speak in front of the sign-up table.
“Its very important that the leadership of the CSU work with the faculty and the faculty association to ensure we protect the quality of education here in California and the CSU system that is so critical for the future of California,” Pan said.
Camp called on all faculty to support the strike effort, and for voters to pass Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative, which would raise the state sales tax and create a surcharge on upper-income earners.
He attacked the CSU board for not accepting the CFA’s proposals.
“It sounds to me like the board of trustees wants to do away with unions,” Camp said. “That is what this is all about.”
CSU spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp called Camp’s comments “inflammatory.”
Of the strike vote, Uhlenkamp said it was premature for faculty to be voting on authorizing a strike because the two sides legally still need to go through the process of “fact-finding,” which means an official from the Public Employment Relations Board would look at both sides and recommend a solution.
He said administrators are happy to have talks with the union at any time.
“Our hope is that we can come to an agreement that is favorable to both sides,” Uhlenkamp said.