For California State University Employees Union members, their demands are simple: “Show me the money.”
An observable tension filled the room during contract bargaining sessions that took place at the Oviatt Library last week between negotiating teams from CSUEU and the CSU, with the central issues of the negotiations being staff pay raises and parking fees.
The negotiations, held June 13 through June 15, are part of CSUEU and CSU contract discussions, which are reopened every year.
The CSUEU represents approximately 15,000 CSU employees, including nurses, custodians, administrative support personnel, information technology employees and many others.
The union held its “Staff Rally for Better Pay” in front of the Oviatt Library during contract negotiations. Employees and supporters wore T-shirts printed with the slogan, “Save Our Staff with Raises, Rights, and Respect.”
Rally participants chanted “more work, less pay” and “show me the money” during the rally.
According to Patrick Gantt, CSUEU president, CSU representatives did not respond to the union’s initial proposal for four months prior to the start of negotiations.
According to Dennis Dillon, chair of the CSUEU Negotiations Committee and CSUN Theatre Department scenic shop foreman, CSU employees have not received a raise in two years.
“It’s not just the fact that we’ve gone two years without a raise, it’s the fact that if you look at the raises we’ve received over the past 10 to 15 years, they have not kept up with the rate of inflation (or) the cost of living,” Dillon said.
Dillon, who has been employed by the state of California for more than 25 years, said CSU employees are “classically underpaid” for doing the same job as county and city employees.
According to Sylvia Freiberg, organizing chair for the CSUN chapter of the CSUEU, the last raise CSU employees received was a 1.5 percent increase.
Freiberg said that while there is an increase in student enrollment, no new employees have been hired, so there is more work for current employees.
“They keep telling us there is no money, but there are all these other projects going on on-campus,” Freiberg said.
“All of the increases that (the) CSUEU are requesting are dependent on the budget we get from the state because the CSU relies primarily on money from the state and from student fees,” said Sharon Abernatha, manager of Labor Relations for the CSU.
Abernatha was present at last week’s contract negotiations.
Abernatha said one reason CSU employees have not received a raise is because in the last two years, the money the CSU has received from the state has decreased.
Another issue commonly expressed by staff members is the threat of increased parking fees for employees.
According to Dillon, parking fees have been approximately $14 a month for the past 12 years.
Jennifer Elliott, an administrative support assistant in the Religious Studies Department at CSUN, said she feels state workers are used as pawns in state budget battles.
“We haven’t gotten a raise in over two years, and there is still a threat of increased health and parking fees,” Elliott said.
Abernatha said one of the major issues the university had for the contract negotiations is parking fees.
“The union contracts have not allowed us to increase the fees for employees, so the cost for students has gone up dramatically,” Abernatha said. “We believe that employees should pay their fair share.”
“People can’t live on the wages they get here,” said James Dacosta, president of the CSUN chapter of the CSUEU and Unix system administrator at Information Technology Resources.
“We’re in agreement that the salaries need to go up,” Abernatha said. “We just believe that they need to go up within the amount we get from the state.”
Abernatha said if salaries go up more than the CSU can handle, the money has to come from someplace else, and that will impact other employees and university programs, causing student fees to go up.
“Our problem is keeping employees, because once they start working here, and they discover they’re not going to get raises, they go back into private industries,” Dillon said.
“This is a process that’s healthy,” Abernatha said. “You talk about issues that both parties have, and try to work out what’s in the best interest of both parties and hopefully we’ll be able to get a resolution by the end of this month.”
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