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Cal State faculty gears up for strike actions

By Lance Newman, CFA | March 30, 2007 | Page 15

THE UNION representing faculty in the California State University (CSU) system has extended negotiations after an overwhelming vote to authorize a strike.

The California Faculty Association (CFA) announced March 21 that 81 percent of the union's 10,000 members had cast ballots, and 94 percent voted in favor of a strike.

If the faculty hits the picket lines, it would be the CFA's first strike and the largest higher education strike in U.S. history. The CSU is the biggest university system in the world, with 23 campuses and almost half a million students.

The high turnout and nearly unanimous vote reflect the depth of faculty anger at a corrupt administration that has been stonewalling in contract talks for almost two years. Since 2002, CSU professors have gotten just one 3.5 percent raise, while the cost of living has gone up by 12 percent and the price of housing has skyrocketed. The average CSU salary now lags more than 18 percent behind similar institutions.

The problem isn't a lack of money. The administration is sitting on cash reserves of almost $1.2 billion. And while faculty have been struggling to survive, top bureaucrats have given themselves 23 percent in raises. Chancellor Charles Reed got a $48,800 raise last year alone and now makes $377,000 a year, more than double the governor's salary.

Reed claims that he is offering the faculty a 25 percent raise--but most faculty would get only about 15 percent over four years. Reed further has demanded that the CFA sign a gag clause, pledging not to criticize the CSU budget. They want faculty to keep quiet about the 94 percent rise in student fees since 2002 and about plans to hike them another 10 percent per year from now until 2011.

The union demands a four-year raise for all faculty of 26 percent, plus additional money to address problems resulting from five years of stagnant pay.

The strike vote authorized CFA's Board of Directors to call a "rolling strike," with two-day walkouts moving from campus to campus.

Students and their families are fed up with non-stop fee increases. Even the state legislature is angry at the CSU administration. Some 28 influential state legislators recently sent a letter to Chancellor Reed demanding that he immediately settle a fair contract.

The current contract expired March 25, and negotiations were extended another 10 days. If no deal is reached, a strike could begin April 9.

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