CFA and PSC Fighting for Faculty

Two AAUP/AAUP-CBC affiliates — the California Faculty Association (CFA), which represents over 23,000 faculty members in the 23-campus California State University (CSU), and the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), which represents more than 25,000 faculty and staff at the City University of New York (CUNY) and the CUNY Research Foundation — are engaged in protracted contract battles which highlight challenges facing faculty members throughout the country.

First, here’s what’s happening in California:  CFA officially announced late last week that its members will vote to authorize the union’s Board of Directors to call for job actions, including a strike, if legally required mediation and factfinding do not result in an agreement.  The union is currently in the middle of a three-year contract, but a “reopener” provision allows members to strike if an agreement on salary for the 2015-2016 academic year is not reached via the mandatory “statutory” process.  The vote is scheduled to take place October 19-28.

CFA is calling for a 5% general salary increase and funding for 2.65% service salary increases for those eligible.  The CSU administration has countered with a proposed increase of just 2%, including both general and service increases.  CSU faculty members received no raises during most of the preceding five years and in 2009 previously negotiated raises were withdrawn owing to the impact of the financial crisis. About half of a 3% raise negotiated for 2014-15 went to fund a desperately needed program to address salary inequities.  As a result, the overall general salary increase for many faculty members was only 1.6%.

Leading up to the current negotiations, CFA released a series of blistering reports, “Race to the Bottom,” detailing low morale, stagnant wages and reductions in workforce for faculty, while pay and positions for executives increased.  Those reports demonstrated that the CSU’s

failure to fund faculty salaries is shocking in both its magnitude and its consistency over time.

Over the past decade—in good times and bad, whether state funding was up or down, when tuition was raised and when it wasn’t—CSU expenditures on faculty salaries have remained essentially flat.

Furthermore, the average CSU faculty salary on every CSU campus actually has lost purchasing power.

While it might be tempting to attribute these facts to conditions beyond the control of the CSU administration, the facts do not support that conclusion.

When compared to other university systems around the country, and to every education segment in California, the CSU stands out for its unparalleled failure to improve faculty salaries or even to protect them from the ravages of inflation. . . .

Over the past 10 years, while the average CSU faculty salary on every campus lost purchasing power, the average University of California faculty salary on each UC campus increased in real dollars.

At UC San Francisco, the average faculty salary from 2004 and 2013 (adjusted for inflation) rose $16,138, while at San Francisco State, the average faculty salary lost $9,748.

(The “Race to the Bottom” papers have also inspired the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education to release a similar report with a national focus, “Back to School in Higher Ed: Who Needs Faculty?,” documenting how serious and how pervasive disinvestment in faculty has become, and discussing ways in which current policies and practices around faculty hiring and salary hurt students.)

“It’s time for management to wake up and realize that they can’t keep acting like corporate CEO’s,” said Kevin Wehr, a Sacramento State sociology professor who is chair of CFA’s bargaining team.

“The intrinsic and personal rewards derived from teaching our amazing students and engaging in our fascinating disciplines do not pay the bills,” CFA President and CSU East Bay professor of philosophy and public affairs administration Jennifer Eagan told the CSU trustees September 24. “The roses are nice but we need the bread.”

CFA’s position is also based on the fact that in the 2015-2016 California state budget, the CSU received $269 million additional dollars, which is a 10% increase in General Fund support, and which includes $97 million added to the Governor’s January budget, largely because CFA lobbied hard for greater support.

Fifteen California lawmakers have sent letters to CSU Chancellor Timothy White urging him to invest in faculty and student success. In a September 21 letter, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León wrote, “Without quality faculty, students cannot succeed.” He noted the state allocated millions more than the governor requested for the CSU in order to increase enrollment, course offerings, and support services for students and that “university faculty are instrumental to the implementation of these initiatives.”

Senator de León urged Chancellor White to “recognize the valuable contributions the faculty makes to students and the entire university community.” He added, “The CSU faculty are instrumental in achieving this goal and as such, I urge a resolution to ensure students receive the best education possible.”

In another message, Assembly member Rob Bonta asked the chancellor to reconsider his 2% salary offer given restored resources and “increased competition for critical faculty.”

“While I do not expect a decade of wage stagnation to be reversed in a single year, this offer does not demonstrate a serious commitment to achieving wage parity with other institutions of public education, much less to provide the world-class education California’s students deserve and its 21st century workforce demands,” Bonta wrote.

Others who sent letters to the chancellor supporting CFA in the contract talks include Assembly Speaker-Elect Anthony Rendon, Assemblymembers Luis Alejo, Susan Bonilla Jim Cooper, Mike Gipson, Lorena Gonzalez, Patty López, Evan Low, Patrick O’Donnell, Miguel Santiago, and Tony Thurmond, and Senators Ben Allen and Isadore Hall.

Meanwhile across the country in New York PSC members have been working without a contract for five years and without raises for six years!  Today, the day of the first CUNY Board meeting of the academic year, PSC members and allies delivered a “wake-up call” to Chancellor James B. Milliken at his Manhattan apartment, where CUNY pays his rent of $19,500 a month.  PSC President Barbara Bowen is urging Milliken to do six things:

  1. Mount a public campaign about how the lack of a contract creates a crisis for educational quality at CUNY. Don’t pretend that it is business as usual when faculty and staff have not had a raise in six years. Testifying before the State Legislature on the need for contract funds was important, but Milliken needs to be loud and clear and public about the magnitude of the crisis the funding shortfall is causing. Instead of staying within safe parameters in his public comments, Milliken should name the racial and economic injustice that keeps CUNY underfunded and our contract unresolved.
  2. Break with the “rational tuition” policy that continues to impoverish CUNY. The PSC strongly opposed the policy in 2011 when it was pushed by former chancellor Goldstein; we foresaw that annual tuition increases for students would become an excuse for not providing adequate State operating funds. That’s exactly what has happened. Milliken has had a year to distance himself from Goldstein’s position; he should do it now.
  3. Accept the PSC’s repeated offers to make the case jointly for a new contract. Because the union and management share the position that CUNY salaries need to be increased, the PSC has proposed several times that we join forces in the public arena and speak or write together. There is potentially real power in seeing labor and management united in an effort to benefit students’ education. Milliken has refused every proposal the PSC leadership has made about joint action.
  4. Direct his representatives at the bargaining table to move immediately on the union’s non-economic proposals, all of which are aimed at enhancing students’ education as well as our own working conditions. Milliken must understand that faculty and staff need other gains in order to ratify a contract. Union members cannot be expected to accept a contract that offers less than we need economically while failing to make non-economic breakthroughs.
  5. Drop CUNY management’s demands for concessions. Some of management’s priority demands would increase the number of teaching positions that lack job security. CUNY already has a history of underpaying the thousands of adjuncts who work with almost no job security; this is not the time to add more positions with no security.
  6. Rethink CUNY’s budget, including its use of unrestricted reserves and the proliferation of high-paid management positions. Recent years have seen an influx of new deans and assistant deans and provosts, as well as millions of dollars spent on consultants and hundreds of millions on CUNYfirst. Before college presidents talk about cutting adjunct positions or making us bring in our own toner cartridges for college printers, Milliken should consider whether the University should continue to accumulate reserves and how the management payroll might be reduced.

The California State University and the City University of New York have long been models of what some have called “people’s universities,” providing access to education and advancement for working class and poor students of all races, religions, ethnicities and backgrounds.  And both institutions have historically been successful because they have managed to attract talented and productive faculty members.  For some time now, however, both institutions have been under financial pressure and have responded with misplaced priorities and top-down administration.  While key managers receive high six-figure salaries, ever more instructors are hired off the tenure track at poverty-level salaries, often without benefits.  Even the dwinding ranks of the tenured full-time faculty receive crumbs.  It’s time for all that to stop.  Our colleagues in CFA and PSC are standing up not only for the economic security of all faculty but even more important for keeping the promise of public higher education for all.   The AAUP is proud to stand with them.

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