Strike avoided by last minute negotiations

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Strike avoided by last minute negotiations

Chico State faculty voted to strike last year which with a last minute agreement on Friday was avoided Photo credit: Michael Catelli

Chico State faculty voted to strike last year which with a last minute agreement on Friday was avoided Photo credit: Michael Catelli

Chico State faculty voted to strike last year which with a last minute agreement on Friday was avoided Photo credit: Michael Catelli

Chico State faculty voted to strike last year which with a last minute agreement on Friday was avoided Photo credit: Michael Catelli

Elizabeth Helmer

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Early Friday morning, the largest strike in the history of higher education was narrowly avoided by an agreement between the CSU administration and the California Faculty Association.

The strike was set to happen across all 23 CSU campuses on April 13 until Timothy White, the CSU chancellor, agreed to a final attempt of face-to-face negotiation with the faculty union.

“The faculty didn’t want a strike and I didn’t want a strike,” White said. “This is a very good thing to have averted that interruption.”

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CSU chancellor Timothy White. Photo credit: Kris Lovekin

The two sides agreed to a 10.5 percent general salary increase over the next three years.

The first 5 percent increase in salary will come on June 30 of this year, immediately followed by a 2 percent increase on July 1. These dates mark the end and beginning of state budget cycles.

“It was the addition of time in the agreement that was an instrumental aspect of our discussions that created a new environment for us to find a solution together,” White said.

The final 3.5 percent pay increase will happen July 1, 2017, along with a 2.65 percent service salary increase.

Jennifer Eagan, president of the CFA, emphasized faculty pay increases are necessary for student success.

“We are creating more economic stability for faculty so that they can do their job and focus on students,” Eagan said. “When faculty are treated like professionals and aren’t wondering how to pay their bills at the end of the month, they can focus on the academic work that they’re doing.”

White agreed pay increases needed to happen. “Salaries for our faculty are under market,” White said. “That fact wasn’t really in dispute between the CSU and the CFA.”

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CFA president Jennifer Eagan. Photo source: calfac.org

So why did it take over a year for the CSU administration to give raises to its faculty? Both White and Eagan point to the underfunding of the CSU system.

“Even before the recession California has not been properly investing in this magnificent organization,” White said. “This dispute that is now behind us was an unfortunate outcome of a core problem that the California State University is underfunded relative by the state’s need for an educated populous.”

Luckily, the CSU has most of the money for the first set of salary increases. A 2 percent increase was budgeted for this year and never actually happened due to the dispute. An additional 2 percent increase was also in the budget set for next year.

Fortunately, the threat of the strike has gained the attention of state politicians. White stated Gov. Jerry Brown along with over 30 state legislators have kept a close eye on the recent dispute, and he is hopeful that more funding is in the future of the CSU.

For now, both sides of the faculty pay dispute are relieved they’ve avoided a strike and are optimistic about the new partnership they have.

“Now is the time when the faculty can stand down from our confrontation and commit to working with the CSU administration in its new spirit of cooperation to build a better CSU for our students and for California,” Eagan said.

Elizabeth Helmer can be reached at [email protected] or @lizziehelmer on Twitter.