California State University Faculty Launch Weeklong Strike on 23 Campuses

Thousands of employees at California State University, the largest public university system in the U.S., went on strike on Monday. The strike, which is expected to last for a week, is a result of their demand for higher wages.

In a recent development, the halt in operations across all 23 campuses of Cal State has occurred. This action comes in the wake of CSU officials terminating contract negotiations and instead presenting a unilateral offer. The offer entails a 5% pay raise, effective from January 31st, which falls significantly short of the 12% increase demanded by the union.

As the new semester commences on Monday, there is a possibility of classes being canceled for a significant number of the system’s 450,000 students. This will depend on the individual decisions made by the faculty regarding crossing picket lines.

Victoria Wilson, a part-time political science lecturer, is currently participating in a strike at Cal State Northridge in Los Angeles. Wilson expressed her motivation for striking, stating that she is advocating for higher pay. According to her, her salary varies from semester to semester, posing a challenge to her long-term financial aspirations. “We are seeking an improved contract to secure higher wages and better working conditions on campus,” Wilson stated.

With a membership of approximately 29,000 individuals, the California Faculty Association serves as a representative body for workers in the state. In a recent development, an additional 1,100 skilled trades workers, including plumbers and electricians, who are represented by the Teamsters Local 2010, were on the verge of joining the strike at CSU. However, a last-minute agreement was reached between the workers and the university on Friday, averting the strike.

On Monday, a group of students joined the picket lines to express their solidarity. Cal State Long Beach student Gabriela Alvarez expressed her participation in the demonstration outside the university as a show of support for her professors and a rejection of the upcoming tuition hikes set to begin this fall.

“It is crucial for our professors to receive fair treatment, as we require additional student resources on campus. Our ongoing efforts aim to reduce tuition prices,” stated Alvarez. “If they proceed with the tuition spikes,” she expressed concern, “I won’t be able to afford next semester.”

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During a video call with journalists, Cal State Chancellor Mildred Garcia expressed that the university system had made efforts to prevent a strike. However, she stated that the union’s salary demands are not feasible. She emphasized the need to operate within the constraints of the organization’s financial situation.

In December, members of CFA organized one-day walkouts at four campuses in Los Angeles, Pomona, Sacramento, and San Francisco. Their demands included higher pay, more manageable workloads, and increased parental leave.

California State University Faculty Launch Weeklong Strike on 23 Campuses

According to the union, the university allegedly possesses substantial funds in its reserve accounts and could potentially cover the salary increases using the surplus from its operating cash and the $766 million emergency reserves held by CSU.

According to Leora Freedman, CSU’s vice chancellor for human resources, the reserve funds cannot be used for wage increases. These funds are specifically designated for situations of economic uncertainty or emergencies, such as wildfires or earthquakes.

There have been multiple offers made, including the most recent one which involves a 15% increase spread out over three years. This would result in faculty members receiving a 5% increase each year. “The faculty union has maintained their demand of 12% for one year without any changes,” she stated.

According to Freedman, the university cannot afford the $380 million increase that the union is requesting, as it would result in significant new recurring spending for the system. A Cal State Los Angeles student, Katerina Navarro, expressed her support for the strike. On Monday, the nursing program commenced its classes, much to her surprise, as there were no cancellations.

Navarro emphasized the need for increased investment in salaries and educational resources, highlighting the significant underpayment of individuals in the education sector. Drawing from her personal experience as a former teacher abroad, she expressed her own dissatisfaction with being underpaid. Her mother and sister both work as educators.

There has been a surge in labor activity over the past year, with health care professionals, Hollywood actors and writers, and auto workers taking to the streets to protest for improved pay and working conditions.

California has recently implemented new laws that provide workers with additional paid sick leave. Furthermore, wages for health care and fast food workers have been raised. In 2022, a month-long strike by teaching assistants and graduate student workers in the University of California System caused disruptions to classes as the fall semester drew to a close.

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