California faculty union holds the line against concession demands

The California Faculty Association (CFA) announced on Tuesday that it had reached a tentative agreement with the California State University(CSU) system that preserves what was good about the old contract and does not contain concessions that would have undermined academic freedom, diminished the faculty voice in university governance, and led to more privatization of higher education. The agreement, however, contains no pay raises. CFA members will vote on the agreement beginning August 13.

“It’s a fair agreement in the context of hard times,” said Lillian Taiz, president of the CFA to the North County Times. “We are disappointed we were not able to get a raise, but that wasn’t in the cards. It was a tough pill to swallow, I won’t kid you.”

The two sides reached a tentative agreement after two years of contentious negotiations. During the negotiations, the CFA mobilized its members for a number of actions that included a one-day strike at two campuses. In April, 95 percent of CFA members voted to strike if an agreement could not be reached.

When negotiations opened in 2010, CFA realized that state budget problems would make contract improvements difficult; therefore, it proposed maintaining the current contract and working with CSU management to obtain more funding from the Legislature.

Chancellor Charles Reed on the other hand saw the budget crisis as an opportunity to extract steep concessions that would allow him to reconfigure CSU in a way that more resembled private for-profit colleges.

He demanded among other things that faculty give up their right to be consulted about increased class sizes, that lecturers give up what little job security they had, that more courses be taught through the “for-profit” Extension program, that faculty who teach Extension courses be paid less, that faculty play less of a role in university governance, and that they accept benefit and pay cuts.

The tentative agreement holds the line against these concession demands, and while it does not include a pay raise, it does maintain current pay and benefit levels and allows for negotiations over pay to reopen if the state budget situation improves.

CFA on its website noted the important role that the mobilization efforts played reaching the agreement. In describing the impact that the one-day strike at the Dominguez Hills and East Bay campuses had, CFA said

The chancellor told the media that no one would honor this strike. But the faculty and thousands of their supporters did, demonstrating that people wanted to take a stand for quality public higher education and for the people who make that education possible.

The strike increased the pressure on management at the bargaining table by showing the Chancellor and the people of California how very angry the CSU faculty are about his policies and priorities. The strike also demonstrated that the public is receptive to our message, even in difficult economic times.

CFA also said that the 95 percent strike vote put pressure on university management to reach an agreement. “With a massive and historic strike looming over the start of school, the two sides finally were able come to terms in late July on a deal that is good both for the faculty and for quality education in the CSU.”

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