BRAIN FACTORY: The Forestalled CFA Strike at California State University

Friday, April 8, 2016

BRAIN FACTORY: The Forestalled CFA Strike at CSU

With less than a week to go before a massive strike by California’s college teachers was about to take place, the California Faculty Association and the Chancellor’s Office of the California State University (CSU) system agreed to a new contract. This morning’s announcement is a major win for the faculty’s union, which had had its case affirmed by a fact-finding committee in late March. The contract completes the financial side of a three-year agreement, extending from 2014 to 2017, that had only heretofore had its first year of a proposed set of pay increases ratified by the faculty. However, this now finished current contract will supply most of its benefits in the next two years; there will be no retroactive pay as such for the past academic year.

As a 10 year veteran of the CSU at this point, I am gratified that there will not be a strike. I suppose there is always the chance that the rank and file will reject the contract when it comes up for a vote in May, but I doubt that will happen. This has been a difficult burden for all of us. The previous time that a strike vote was taken, in 2012, the vote of approval was so overwhelming (94%) that the Chancellor’s Office settled on a pay raise rather quickly. This time though, with almost the same exact percentage once again voting in favor of a strike, the process dragged on for months after the vote, leading to a considerable degree of anxiety and foreboding, for both students and faculty.

In recent months, Chancellor White held a series of public meetings with faculty at campuses around the state. At every meeting, he insisted that no money was available to give faculty any kind of raise above two percent. In the days after the meeting at CSULB, I wrote a song lyric to express how faculty at CSULB felt about the obstreperousness of CSU’s Board of Trustees.

BRAIN FACTORY

The brain assembly line’s on strike.
’Cuz two percent’s a total joke;
Three won’t match the raise in rent;
Four will hardly make a dent;

CHORUS
Five percent is what we want.
Five percent is what we want.
Five percent is what we want.
And we want it one for all.

Our students need to learn
What teachers really earn;
If knowledge shines prosperity,
Why so much dim austerity?

Tim White cavorts to heap the praise,
Then tightens up about a raise.
We ask to catch the cost of living
To compensate for what we’re giving.

I worked to get a Ph.D.
And mastered how to teach;
But now home ownership
Escapes impoverished reach.

Two percent’s a drop in the bucket —
Three point nine would hardly cut it!
We’re striking at the brain factory
Because the chancellor’s refractory.

CHORUS

Five percent is what we want.
Five percent is what we want.
Five percent is what we want.
And we want it one for all.

Our students need to learn
What teachers really earn;
If knowledge shines prosperity,
Why so much dim austerity?

Five percent is what we want.
Five percent and don’t you stall.
Five percent is what we want.
And we want it one for all.

It appears that the Chancellor Timothy White is no longer refractory, but is willing to concede that the CFA has a valid point to make about the salary paid to both tenure-track and adjunct faculty. I applaud the negotiating team of the CFA for being steadfast in their determination to stand up for economic equity on behalf of the CSU’s faculty.

Onward!