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CFA fighting for equity, security for CSU faculty

The California Faculty Association continues advocating for California State University faculty
California+Faculty+Association+members+attend+an+in-person+and+virtual+bargaining+session+on+Aug.+7+.+Courtesy%3A+the+CFA
California Faculty Association members attend an in-person and virtual bargaining session on Aug. 7 . Courtesy: the CFA

Equity and security is what the California Faculty Association is fighting to provide California State University faculty members, especially lecturers.

The CFA and CSU management are entering a fact-finding session, but the CFA is preparing for a possible strike if a deal is not struck.

Salary negotiations are currently the most volatile. The CFA proposed a 12% general salary increase, as well as a minimum salary floor increase. The latter would primarily impact lecturers and other lower-paid faculty.

The CFA wants to raise the Range-A faculty minimum salary $10,000, from $54,360 to $64,360; Range-B faculty minimum salary by $5,000, from $64,860 to $69,860. A lecturer’s range is determined by experience and “professional growth and development.” 

The cost of one person living in Chico, on average, is over $37,000. The cost of one person living in California, on average, is over $45,000.

Lecturers are some of the lowest-paid faculty, which has negatively impacted their professional and personal lives in multiple ways. 

Lecturers are also some of the most depended-on faculty members, according to Eran Zelnik, Chico State lecturer and CFA Chico chapter secretary.

In fall 2022, 469 lecturers worked at Chico State, 51% of all faculty members. In the entire CSU system, 16,605 lecturers were employed, 60% of all faculty members.

One issue is workload.

“People are overworked, chairs are overworked, tenure track faculty are overworked,” Zelnik said.

Range-B Chico State lecturer, Amy Castelluccio, said she’s concerned the workload is becoming too much.

Castelluccio lives outside of Chico and commutes to and from work. This, along with time needed during and after class, severely limits the time she could spend with her family.

“The whole irony is that as you’re trying to provide for your families or for yourself, you can’t do anything for yourself or for your families except work,” Castelluccio said.

In the past, like other lecturers, Castelluccio has had to work others jobs alongside being a lecturer to help support her family.

Another CFA proposal seeks to rectify this workload issue by instituting a class limit, or cap, to reduce the stress put on faculty. This also makes sure students get the learning time and experience they deserve.

Chico State history lecturer and CFA Chico chapter president, Timothy Sistrunk, said the aspects impacting faculty are also impacting students, because we are all one community.

Another workload-related CFA proposal is to set the counselor-to-student ratio to 1:1,500. Currently, it is at 1:1,000, but the union wants to make sure students have better access to mental health services.

Castelluccio said she’s seen students’ struggle with mental health and feels the struggle too.

“There have been times where I have felt like I’m a counselor and I’m not a counselor,” Castelluccio said. “They will come to me so upset and they’re just trying to figure it out. And I’m trying to help them figure it out. But I’m stuck.”

She’s said there’s just not enough counselors to meet student needs.

The CFA Chico chapter team at the first bargaining session on June 27. Left to right, CFA Chico chapter president, Timothy Sistrunk, CFA Chico chapter faculty rights co-chair, Lindsay Briggs, CFA Chico chapter member, Allison McConnell, and CFA Chico chapter vice president, Nathan Bryant. Courtesy: Lindsay Briggs

The workload and salary do not equate, according to Lindsay Briggs, Chico State professor and CFA Chico chapter faculty rights co-chair.

The 12% GSI was determined through a vote of all union members. Zelnik said CSU management should be happy they didn’t ask for more. Personally, he wanted around a 25% GSI.

He also said the CFA is trying to make sure lecturers are in a position that “grants security and a dignified way of life.

CSU management’s first counterproposal suggested a 12% GSI over three years. 

When the CFA denied this, CSU management proposed a one year 4% GSI, then a one time 5% GSI.

Considering the 4% inflation rate in 2023, faculty would, in reality, only receive a 1% salary increase if the latter proposal went into effect.

The CFA declared an impasse soon after the last counterproposal was presented.

To read CSU management’s response to the impasse, go here.

One of the few CFA proposals approved by CSU management was a salary increase for department chairs.

Another threat to lecturers is a lack of job security.

Zelnik said his friend who was a lecturer was let go last year along with multiple others. Castelluccio said she often fears the same fate.

“It makes me worry about my family. How am I gonna support my family, you know, if I don’t have a job anymore,” Castelluccio said.

This idea of security also encapsulates safety. 

Other CFA proposals include installing safe bathrooms for LGBTQ+ faculty members and ensuring in the event of police-faculty interviews, that a representative is provided and guns left outside the interview space.

Briggs said the CFA feels like it’s not a big ask to have one inclusive bathroom in each building and since police brutality is still a nationwide issue, the CFA feels they have a right to ask for officers to be unarmed when interviewing CSU faculty members.

The CFA also wants to increase the amount of parental leave from 30 days to an entire semester, which is around 16 weeks.

“We think parenting is really important. And so parents should be able to bond with their children and have some time with their new family members,” Briggs said. 

To read all CFA and CSU proposals and counterproposals, go here.

This isn’t the first time a strike has nearly occurred. Sistrunk said they go to an impasse nearly every bargaining session, which is every three years. The most notable being in 2016.

It is still uncertain if a strike will occur but the discussion has been opened not only on the behalf of the CFA and CSU faculty, but also between faculty and their students.

Sistrunk, Castelluccio, Zelnik and Briggs all said they’ve talked with their students about why and how a strike could occur, and what it would mean for everyone.

“They support us. They’re asking questions, obviously they’re concerned. This is something that not only is affecting us faculty, but of course it’s affecting them,” Castelluccio said. “There’s some anxiety and some nervousness. I’ve told them that we got them, you know, we support them. One of the reasons that we are doing this is for them.”

Sistrunk and Zelnik both stated that student protests have been very effective throughout history, because without students and faculty, universities and colleges cannot function.

Sending letters to CSU management, starting conversations with peers and those outside the CSU system and protesting are a few ways students can show support. 

Students, faculty, staff and community members alike can also wear the color red on Thursdays to show support.

While not all CSU faculty are CFA members, the union’s advocacy impacts all, so Briggs hopes all CSU faculty members engage in the strike.

“With both union activism and student activism, we can get a far, far better university for everybody,” Zelnik said.

As a community, we have the power to try to influence our surroundings. To show your support for faculty members you can wear red on Thursdays, open a conversation, correspond with the CFA and CSU management regarding your thoughts, or even start a protest, it’s your move.

Ariana Powell can be reached at [email protected] or [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Ariana Powell
Ariana Powell, Editor-in-Chief
Ariana Powell is in her fourth year at Chico State as a media arts (criticism) and journalism (news) double-major. Now in her fourth semester on The Orion and having assumed the editor-in-chief position, she is prepared to continue helping upcoming journalists and endeavors to continue building her repertoire of multimedia and writing skills. In her free time, she enjoys writing, watching and analyzing films, reading and spending time with her loved ones.

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