By Nanette Asimov
Chronicle Staff Writer
California State University faculty will echo the Occupy movement Tuesday and Wednesday as professors and lecturers picket on campus - for a couple of hours, anyway - to vent frustration with the "1 percent" running the university.
On CSU campuses across California, the pickets herald a systemwide strike that faculty leaders hope to stage Nov. 17 to protest Chancellor Charles Reed's decision to cancel scheduled raises, the sticking point in collapsed labor negotiations.
"Students and faculty feel the same way about Chancellor Reed as the Occupy Wall Street protesters feel about decisions that benefit 1 percent of the population," said Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Association. "The chancellor is doing exactly the same to our CSU by hiking student fees, cutting classes and not paying the faculty raises that he agreed to. It is wrong, and we will hold him accountable."
The news has indeed been grim during California's budget crisis. Tuition is 23 percent higher than a year ago. CSU has reduced enrollment by 10,000 students. And more than 4,000 employees - nearly 9 percent of the workforce - have been laid off or not replaced since 2008.
But university officials say CSU is no BofA, which benefited from a $15 billion federal bailout to Merrill Lynch, later acquired by Bank of America. By contrast, California cut this year's allocation to CSU by $650 million, with an additional $100 million cut likely.
That's on top of a $600 million hit to CSU in 2009, which led to furloughs amounting to a 10 percent pay cut for everyone from the lowest paid workers to Reed.
At issue in the current labor dispute is the faculty contract for 2008 to 2010, which promised a 5 percent raise and enough money to bring faculty to pay parity with more recent hires in similar jobs.
But the contract also said that if the budget crisis continued, it could be renegotiated. That happened, but led nowhere except to an official impasse.
Now, the faculty say they are asking only for pay parity for about 3,000 employees - out of about 24,000 - earning less than the more recent hires.
That would cost the university $20 million the first year and at least $10 million a year thereafter - and CSU says it's not possible.
"The economic reality is that we've been trying to keep the doors to our campuses open for students, while the faculty union seems more concerned about the extra money in their paychecks that they didn't receive," said Claudia Keith, a university spokeswoman.
Keith said the faculty union received nearly $60 million in raises from 2008 to 2010 and is the only employee group to get any increase during the economic crisis.
Taiz said that may sound like a lot but that most of it was spread over 24,000 people and amounted to a 2 percent raise.
She said the university should endorse pay parity because CSU officials themselves use that argument to defend hiring executives at far higher salaries than their predecessors.
In July, for example, CSU trustees approved a $400,000 salary for Elliot Hirshman, the new president of the San Diego campus, which was $100,000 higher than his predecessor received.
University officials said they needed to pay the higher rate to be competitive with what comparable universities across the country pay. At $299,435, former President Stephen Weber was earning less than the market rate, they said.
Taiz criticized university officials for caring more about executives than faculty.
This story has been corrected since it appeared in print editions.
Professors and other instructors plan to picket at 10 California State University campuses Tuesday, including San Francisco State (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and Sonoma State (7:30 to 9:45 a.m.).
On Wednesday, a dozen more walkouts are scheduled, including at Cal State East Bay in Hayward (7:30 to 10:30 a.m.) and San Jose State (9 to 11 a.m.).