BY HANK REICHMAN
Support continues to build for the California Faculty Association (CFA)’s “Fight for Five.” The union, an AAUP affiliate representing 26,000 faculty, librarians, counselors and coaches in the 23-campus California State University system, has vowed to walk out for five days in mid-April if agreement is not reached on a salary settlement. CFA is seeking a 5% general salary increase and service step increases for those eligible. The CSU has offered a raise of 2%, with no service increases.
Last weekend 3200 delegates at the California Democratic Party convention meeting in San Jose voted to endorse CFA’s demands. California Democratic Party chairman John Burton said, “California doesn’t have the country’s biggest and best public universities by accident. It’s because of the hard work of dedicated faculty and students. I know because I graduated from San Francisco State University and it launched me on my career more than 60 years ago. California State University faculty have stood with students and parents to protect our public universities during the recession. We need to give CSU faculty the respect they deserve and pay them what they are worth.”
The vote followed a rousing speech by CFA President Jennifer Eagan, Professor of Philosophy and Public Administration at CSU East Bay. In her speech, Eagan said, “We’re the little labor union that that could, and we’re taking on the largest university administration in the nation.” She invited delegates to join the picket lines with CSU faculty should a strike be necessary in April, saying, “It is a fight not just for faculty or for the students. It’s a fight that represents our democratic values, the values of economic justice and social mobility. It’s a fight for a better state; join us.”
AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress Chair Howard Bunsis, Professor of Accounting at Eastern Michigan University, will be in California at Cal State LA today and Cal Poly Pomona on Friday, to share with faculty his latest analysis of the CSU system’s financial status. Bunsis has been studying the CSU’s finances for years.
“The data is startling,” Bunsis told CFA. He is particularly concerned with the huge numbers of part-time hires and crowded classrooms that, he says help to generate a high level of “excess cash flow.”
“Even while the CSU has experienced two significant downturns in state appropriations, the CSU has weathered this. It is still possible to say ‘we are prudent managers’ and be able to hire faculty into permanent jobs, offer students smaller classes, and pay better salaries.”
On Monday at CSU East Bay, student and faculty protesters warmed up for the strike with a picket line outside and pointed questions inside a public forum with CSU Chancellor Timothy White.
Inside the forum, which was restricted to about 200 people although the room held many more, faculty energetically moved to the microphones to ask questions as soon as the Chancellor wrapped up his opening. The first question came from a Lecturer who said she did not earn enough to help pay for her mother’s recent funeral, despite teaching four classes and having a Ph.D. White replied that hiring decisions are “a campus decision,” so “I don’t understand why you are in the situation you are in.”
Faculty and students leaned on the Chancellor over low pay for faculty, crowded classes for students. White persisted in saying, as he has at previous forums, “We have to live within our means.”
Sociology department chair Patricia Jennings, who was the last to comment before the forum was ended, laid out the challenges of departments to hire, saying “We lose people to lesser-cost states that are higher paying.” She challenged the “discourse of quality” while classes still get bigger, faculty are “disheartened,” and bureaucracy grows.
East Bay CFA Chapter President Nick Baham, said, “The Chancellor just doesn’t get the faculty. We are united in our fight for reasonable working conditions. We showed him a preview of what is to come in April if there isn’t a fair contract for faculty.” Baham remarked later, “When faculty in the room challenged the Chancellor on just about any money issue, he passed the buck to campus administrators or to elected officials. They all share responsibility for these problems but he is our $400,000 Chancellor. The buck stops with him.”
Here is some video from the event: