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Calif. university faculty union stages strike over pay

  • November 18, 2011

By Terence Chea
AP Education Writer

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. It was the first such faculty walkout in the history of the 23-campus system.

The one-day strike came a day after the university's 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 taken into custody, and several officers were injured, university officials said.

The California Faculty Association — which represents about 23,000 professors, lecturers, coaches, counselors and librarians — authorized the strike at the East Bay and Dominguez Hills campuses.

Protesters began arriving early in the day at the Dominguez Hills campus in Carson and the East Bay campus in Hayward. They wore red union T-shirts with the words "enough is enough" and carried picket signs.

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

Philosophy professor Jennifer Eagan, who heads the East Bay chapter of the faculty union, said the strike is about more than just the faculty pay increase.

"Our students' learning conditions are our working conditions. So our class sizes go up, our workloads go up, and the quality of their education goes down," Eagan said. "That's why we're really out here. It's not about a small wage increase. We are out here to save the CSU."

Most of the roughly 400 full-time faculty members on the East Bay campus were participating in the strike, and hundreds more from other CSU campuses were expected to join the picket line and noon rally, Eagan said, holding a sign that read "We teach the 99 percent."

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

"We're operating as normally and trying to prevent any disruptions wherever possible," Zepel said.

At Dominguez Hills, 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.

Faculty members from other Cal State schools planned to travel to the campuses in Hayward and Carson to support their colleagues on the picket line. The two campuses each have about 700 faculty members.

"The leadership of this institution is using faculty, students and staff as if they were ATMs," said Lillian Taiz, a professor of history at the CSU Los Angeles campus and president of the faculty association. "They turn to us to bail out the university."

Thursday's walkout is the first faculty strike since system-wide collective bargaining began in the 1980s.

Faculty members at the two campuses have the right to strike but will lose a day's pay if they don't show up for work, administrators said.

University officials said they planned to beef up security to ensure the safety of students and staff.

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.


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