California Faculty Association Gears Up for Strike: Fighting for Fair Pay and Better Conditions

Faculty members across 23 California State University campuses are gearing up for a monumental strike, a move that could impact nearly half a million students. After a resounding 95% vote in favor of a strike, the 29,000-strong California Faculty Association (CFA) is setting the stage for a series of strikes across various campuses, starting with Cal Poly Pomona on December 4th.

At the heart of the dispute are demands for fairer compensation and a working environment. The faculty is rallying behind a slogan that has become their battle cry: “Time for 12!” This call for a 12% salary increase highlights the growing frustrations over inadequate pay, especially in regions like the Bay Area where many faculty members struggle to make ends meet. The CSU system, however, has countered with a proposal of a mere 5% raise, falling significantly short of the CFA’s demands.

The battle isn’t just about salaries. The CFA is pushing for better working conditions, including more manageable workloads, an increase in student counselors, rights to counsel when approached by campus police, and the implementation of more lactation rooms and gender-neutral bathrooms and changing rooms on campuses. Yet, these requests have been largely dismissed by the CSU, sparking further outrage among faculty members.

Brad Erickson, CFA Chapter President at San Francisco State University, pointed out that CSU’s stance on seemingly modest proposals like lactation rooms and gender-neutral facilities is particularly alarming. Despite CSU’s claim of alignment with comparable institutions, Erickson argues that their comparisons don’t stack up against local institutions, instead looking to schools in Texas and Florida.

The financial feasibility of the CFA’s demands has been a major point of contention. While CSU insists that a 12% salary increase is beyond their budgetary capabilities, the CFA counters with the 2023 Bunsis Study, which suggests that the CSU system has the financial means to meet their demands, citing years of significant annual operating cash surpluses.

The decision to strike marks a shift in the CFA’s strategy, influenced in part by the wave of teacher strikes in 2018 under the “Red for Ed” movement. This change in approach reflects a growing sentiment within the union that strike action, rather than being a mere threat, is a necessary step to secure a contract that meets workers’ needs.

Support for the faculty’s cause is not just limited to its members. Students have shown solidarity, with meetings on strike preparations attracting significant student participation. This unity challenges CSU’s narrative of dividing students and faculty, particularly in the context of recent tuition hikes allegedly aimed at funding faculty raises.

The upcoming strikes reflect a broader resurgence in labor union activities and public support in the United States. The CFA’s move is not just about their own demands but signifies a larger trend in the labor movement where workers are increasingly willing to withhold their labor to advocate for their rights. As the CFA prepares to make a stand, the implications of their actions extend beyond their immediate demands, signaling a pivotal moment in the ongoing struggle for fair labor practices and equitable working conditions.