After 18 months of bargaining, the 23,000-member California Faculty Association and the CSU Chancellor's Office are on the verge of moving negotiations into "fact-finding."
If both sides still are unable to reach an agreement with the help of a neutral fact-finder, faculty will then be in the legal clear to go on strike.
"We hope to rally the troops and send a message to the chancellor that faculty are angry and have had enough," said Tom McCoy, CFA chapter president. "If, in the interim, the chancellor does not settle the contract, CFA will take a vote among its members to authorize job actions, including rolling two-day strikes."
McCoy, a communications professor who also served on the bargaining team, says faculty are looking for competitive wages and lower student fees. CSU faculty wages lag 18 percent behind those at comparable universities nationwide, according to McCoy.
"That doesn't factor in the inflated costs to work in California," he added.
Meanwhile, the association also points out that student fees have increased by
76 percent over the past four years.
"I work two jobs, and it has taken me five years to graduate because of the fee increases," said student Lili Marquez, one of several students who participated in the informational pickets.
Faculty also say student fee increases are contributing to the decline in enrollment. Last spring, the university reported a loss of $3 million because it failed to meet enrollment targets. University officials maintain that CSU fees are among the lowest in the nation, regardless of any fee increases in the past.
In response to the faculty demonstration, CSU officials released a statement saying the union rejected "an excellent compensation offer" that included a
24.5 percent salary increase to be paid over the next three years.
But union members say that figure actually works out to about a 14 percent raise. According to CFA, the rest of the offered increases are tied to several factors, including approval from the governor's budget and a new merit pay system.
"We already have a merit system in the tenure process," said Alice Sunshine, CFA communications director. "The rest of the offer has strings to it that only some people will get, if they get it at all."
If the faculty are unable to negotiate a contract they deem fair, students foresee several challenges.
"It would impact us because the university may have a hard time recruiting and retaining good teachers, which would create less but larger classrooms," student Carolynne Komata said. "I hope they do strike and make a stand."
Kristofer Noceda covers education in Hayward, Castro Valley, San Leandro and San Lorenzo. He can be reached at (510) 293-2479 or firstname.lastname@example.org.