Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Cal State Faculty Ends Strike After Reaching Tentative Contract Agreement

Posted By on Tue, Jan 23, 2024 at 11:56 AM

click to enlarge Assistant Sociology professor William Force raises his fist as he holds a picket sign striking at the front entrance of the Fresno State campus on Jan. 22, 2024. - PHOTO BY LARRY VALENZUELA, CALMATTERS/CATCHLIGHT LOCAL
  • Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local
  • Assistant Sociology professor William Force raises his fist as he holds a picket sign striking at the front entrance of the Fresno State campus on Jan. 22, 2024.
A Cal State systemwide strike secured what more than half a year of negotiations and partial strikes couldn’t: a deal. Negotiators of the California Faculty Association and California State University finalized a tentative agreement last tonight, the union said, ending what would have been a week-long strike at the nation’s largest four-year public university system.

The deal falls short of the 12 percent general salary increase the union sought for this academic year and instead provides a retroactive 5 percent raise to July 1, 2023 — consistent with what Cal State leaders were offering for the past several months.

The deal also provides a 5 percent salary increase starting July 1, 2024 for all 29,000 faculty — contingent on Cal State receiving at least the same amount of state funding lawmakers and the governor approved last summer. That’s a shift for Cal State officials — previously, they only wanted to offer a 5 percent raise next year if the state increased funding to the university.

“We’re messaging this as 10 percent in the next six months,” said Kevin Wehr, chair of the faculty union’s bargaining committee and a professor at Sacramento State.

The faculty union represents 29,000 professors, lecturers, librarians, sports coaches and mental health professionals.

Cal State officials argued since the fall they couldn’t afford the 12 percent raise the union sought. Also, the contracts it signed with other employee unions last year raised wages by 5 percent. Some of those contracts had provisions that would reopen salary negotiations if any other union received more than a 5 percent raise.

Cal State said last fall that every 1 percent raise in salary for faculty costs the system at least $26.5 million annually.

​“The agreement enables the CSU to fairly compensate its valued, world-class faculty while protecting the university system’s long-term financial sustainability,” said Cal State Chancellor Mildred García in a statement.

After negotiations between the two camps broke down two weeks ago, the union moved ahead with its plan to hold its first-ever systemwide strike. Faculty picketed across 23 campuses Monday morning, including Cal Poly Humboldt. University officials maintained campuses were open but it’s likely most professors canceled classes.

“I think it’s quite clear that management was not happy about the strike,” Wehr said in an interview. “I don’t know whether they underestimated us but 23 campuses were shut down, and it was clear that they were motivated to not have the strike go another day.”

At around 4 p.m. Monday, Cal State negotiators sent the bargaining team the outline of a deal. Union officials debated it and concluded that evening it was strong enough to call off the strike.

The deal also provides the lowest paid faculty additional $3,000 raises applied retroactively to July 1, 2023. That move alone would benefit thousands of workers the union represents who until now earn the salary floors of $54,000 and $65,000 in their respective pay ranges. About two-thirds of the union’s membership sit in those bottom two pay ranges and a majority of those members receive the base pay.

Another $3,000 raise will kick in for faculty who currently earn the lowest salary of $54,000 starting July 1, 2024. About a third of faculty will see additional 2.65 percent raises.

Though it’s not the 12 percent raise in 2023-24 the union demanded, Wehr thinks the union members will “overwhelmingly” ratify the contract once it’s put to a vote.

He said a public version of the tentative agreement could go public by Friday once university officials and union leaders finalize the language.

According to a message to faculty, the contract’s highlights also include paid parental leave growing from six weeks to 10 weeks — less than the full semester the union sought. Other aspects of the tentative deal include providing a union representative when faculty deal with police, “improving access” to spaces to pump breastmilk and extending the current contract by one year to June 30, 2025.

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