The Humboldt State University Student Labor Union
, a week-old organization, mobilized students to rally in solidarity with the California Faculty Association this afternoon. The rally drew several hundred students to the HSU quad, where they and faculty members spoke about how budget issues have impacted the education of HSU students. The rally mirrored another held by California Faculty Association members outside the California State University Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach during negotiations today.
"We're in a listening stage; we're listening for what people want," said Ama Tierney of the Student Labor Union. "Faculty across the CSU are facing a financial crisis. Since the recession happened, they have not gotten a significant raise. Professors are less available: They're getting other jobs to make ends meet. They feel like CSU management has turned their back on them."
Members of the CFA voted overwhelmingly to strike, an action that, according to a letter from HSU President Lisa Rossbacher, will probably not occur this semester.
"I want you to know that the faculty and staff of Humboldt State University are deeply committed to your success," said Rossbacher in letter to students the evening before the rally. "Even if the negotiations become more contentious, I am confident that your faculty members do not want this issue to impact your educational progress."
CFA is advocating for a 5 percent general salary increase. According to its report,
HSU has decreased the amount of tenure-track staff by 25 percent over the last 10 years. The percentage of full-time equivalent students who have enrolled in HSU over that period was almost twice the amount of faculty hired, a discrepancy some say has directly impacted students in terms of class size and engagement.
"Classes are getting bigger, there's more workload," said Benjamin Shaeffer, an assistant professor in the HSU Philosophy Department and vice-president of the CFA's HSU chapter. "In my department we have a writing heavy curriculum. It's difficult."
Schaeffer added that although 94 percent of the union members voted to authorize a strike, legally they cannot take action until after the fact-finding process of negotiation, a period whose length is unknown at this time.
"We're hoping to settle before it comes to that," he said, adding that HSU ranks at the bottom of the CSU system for income equality, with only a 1 percent raise in the last 10 years, an amount that is disproportionate to the cost of living. The base salary for HSU's president rose by 29 percent over the same period, and salary for HSU management rose by 42 percent.
From Humboldt State University:
Faculty Association Concerted Activities Update
Dear HSU students:
As you may be aware, the California Faculty Association and the California State University system are in the midst of negotiations about the current faculty contract. These negotiations are conducted at the system-wide level, rather than at the campus level, so the discussions are happening at the Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach, not here at HSU.
Just over a week ago, the California Faculty Association (the collective bargaining agent for the faculty) announced that its membership had voted to authorize its leaders to initiate specific activities, which could include a strike, if no contract agreement can be reached at the bargaining table. The bargaining process is complex, and additional steps are required before any decisions about a strike or other actions will be made. The faculty are not on strike now, so you should not experience any disruption in your classes or exams this semester.
I know that news like this can cause uncertainty about how your studies could be impacted. I want to assure you that this recent vote does not mean that a strike is about to happen – or that one will necessarily happen at all. Additional hearings and negotiations are scheduled for late November and early December. For its part, the CSU has stressed its desire to work through the collective bargaining process and reach a fair agreement.
Most importantly, I want you to know that the faculty and staff of Humboldt State University are deeply committed to your success. Even if the negotiations become more contentious, I am confident that your faculty members do not want this issue to impact your educational progress. In the next few days, you may hear and see reports of rallies at the CSU system office or here at Humboldt State; these events are likely to draw media attention, but they are not part of a strike, and classes will continue to meet.
We will continue to provide updates as additional information becomes available. If you would like more information about the process, the CSU system posts updates at www.calstate.edu/LaborRel.
Lisa A. Rossbacher, Ph.D.