Cal State University faculty stages strike over pay

  • November 17, 2011

HAYWARD, Calif. —Hundreds of California State University faculty members staged a strike Thursday at two campuses to protest the administration's decision not to pay negotiated raises.

The one-day strike came after the university Board of Trustees voted to raise tuition by 9 percent, or $498, next fall during a meeting that was disrupted by a violent confrontation between protesters and police at university headquarters in Long Beach.

Four protesters were arrested, and several officers were injured.

The California Faculty Association -- which represents about 23,000 professors, lecturers, coaches, counselors and librarians at the system's 23 campuses -- authorized the walkout at the East Bay and Dominguez Hills campuses.

It was the first faculty strike since system-wide collective bargaining began in the 1980s.

Protesters began arriving early in the day at the Dominguez Hills campus in Carson and the East Bay campus in Hayward. Faculty members from each campus were joined by hundreds of their colleagues from other Cal State schools.

In Hayward, faculty members picketed at the school's two main entrances, slowing traffic into campus and urging motorists to support the strike. They blew whistles, beat drums and chanted, "Don't cross the line. Faculty members on strike."

About 300 faculty members, carrying signs and wearing red union T-shirts with the words "Enough is enough," gathered for a noon rally in the middle of the main road leading to the hilltop campus.

Laurie Price, an anthropology professor at the East Bay campus, said her workload has increased about 50 percent during the past five years because of increased class sizes and staff reductions.

"We're striking for the quality of higher education, and that can only be maintained if the faculty gets decent salaries," Price said.

Campus spokesman Barry Zepel said the university remained open, but it was unclear how many of the nearly 600 scheduled classes had been canceled because of the strike.

The school was trying to prevent disruptions wherever possible, he said.

The East Bay campus was unusually quiet Thursday, with far fewer students and cars. Students said it appeared most professors had canceled their classes.

"I do support the faculty," said Justin Areola, 20, a junior majoring in business administration. "I don't think they're getting paid enough to do all the work that they do."

The union, which is in negotiations over a new contract, was striking over salary increases negotiated for the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 academic years. The university didn't pay the raises because the state, facing a massive budget deficit, slashed funding to the Cal State system, leading to sharp tuition increases, enrollment cuts and employee furloughs.

A state-appointed fact-finding panel recently recommended that the university pay a portion of the raises, which would cost $20 million the first year and $10 million in subsequent years.

Administration officials rejected the recommendation, saying the university doesn't have the money.

The California State University system, which has more than 400,000 students, lost $650 million in state support this year and expects to lose another $100 million because of a projected shortfall in state revenue.

CSU officials said paying the faculty raises would mean offering fewer classes for students. They said faculty members received a total of $60 million in salary increases from 2008 to 2010, more than any other group of employees.

"At this point where we are trying to do everything we can to maintain access and quality for our students, it's just inappropriate to divert another $20 million to faculty increases that there's going to be no new state money for," said CSU spokesman Erik Fallis.

At Dominguez Hills, about 13 miles from downtown Los Angeles, protesters carried a 10-foot-tall puppet bearing a likeness of CSU Chancellor Charles Reed with a grimace on his face and two fistfuls of cash. They chanted "Hey hey, ho ho! Charlie Reed has got to go!" Drivers honked their horns and waved their fists in support.

"If they don't start giving us respect and start taking education seriously, this is just the beginning," said Nate Thomas, who teaches film at the Northridge campus. "Nobody wants to do this. We would rather be teaching and inspiring our students."

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