The Imminent Faculty Strike at California State University

Sunday, February 21, 2016

THE IMMINENT FACULTY STRIKE AT CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY

The California Faculty Association (CFA) has authorized a strike for mid-April by all those who teach in the California State University system. I, for one, am not eager to strike, but I see no other choice. The Chancellor and the Board of Trustees have not only refused to negotiate in good faith, but do not have the courage to admit the financial facts of living and working in California: their offer of a two percent raise is essentially a pay cut that keeps CSU tenure-track faculty and lecturers at the very bottom of their profession in terms of take-home remuneration. After a decade of utterly stagnant income, California State University professors deserve a minimum raise of five percent.

The dispute concerning the percentage of the next pay raise is merely a short-term disagreement, however. No matter how the current contract plays out, both Chancellor White and the CSU Faculty agree that somewhere down the line another major statewide or national economic catastrophe will occur. The last time a precipitous shortfall in funding the CSU happened, the CSU Board of Trustees asked the faculty to accept a furlough that amounted to a ten percent pay cut. The faculty, in a state-wide vote, affirmed that furlough by only a modest margin. The close vote reflected the faculty’s distrust of CSU’s administrative bureaucracy, and it has turned out that the suspicions of those who voted “no” were fully justified.

Does Chancellor White really think faculty will vote for another furlough? Only six percent of faculty voted not to strike this spring. I doubt even that small fraction of the faculty will accept a concession involving any future furlough; since the faculty’s consent is required to bring about a furlough, the Chancellor will then be forced to let go of lecturers, and there will not be enough teachers for the classes that students need. What then, Chancellor White? This upcoming strike will probably last no more than five days. The problem of educating students for an entire academic year without a furlough to prop up the budget will be a far, far more daunting challenge. To their considerable chagrin, Chancellor White and the CSU Board of Trustees will discover the consequences of burning their economic bridges with professional aplomb back in 2016.

Penny wise, and pound foolish, describes the Chancellor’s long-term strategy. If Chancellor White wants all of us to make sacrifices when the next crisis occurs, it might be a good idea for him to make at least a token gesture of acknowledgement for sacrifices made in the past. Memory, though, has no gratitude.

We who do the work of educating the students are determined to be treated in a fair manner. The pursuit of happiness is the yearning for knowledge, which in turn is the engine of wealth. Let all workers, including teachers, be requited with the rewards of that knowledge.