Leaders of the California Faculty Association said last week that a vote on whether or not to strike later on this semester will be held on all 23 California State University campuses next month.
CFA President John Travis and CFA Communications Director Alice Sunshine hosted a media conference call on Feb. 21. Rumors of a strike vote and rolling strikes have been wide spread, but the information released by the CFA marked an official confirmation of an event that could make history. Travis said that if enough votes are cast in favor a strike, the CSU would be host to the largest strike in the history of the United States.
The vote on the strike will be held from March 5-8 and from March 12-15.
“Local chapters of the CFA will be responsible for the voting on each campus,” Sunshine said.
Sociology professor Dave Ballard, president of Cal State Northridge’s CFA chapter, said faculty on this campus would cast their votes during the second voting period.
Currently, the CFA and the CSU bargaining teams have entered a stage in negotiations in which a fact-finding panel is required. In the next couple of weeks, the panel will release its recommendations.
“If the two sides do not accept the recommendations, at that point the faculty would be free to start a job action,” Sunshine said.
The CFA has maintained for the last few months, as the negotiations have become tenser, that they are fighting for students, as well as for themselves. To that end, they have said the rolling strikes are a way to make a statement to the CSU without causing much disruption to students’ academic lives or futures. The rolling strikes would last for two days so that students would not miss more than one session of each class. Bur this could present a problem with classes that meet only once a week – that would be three hours lost in teaching time for the professor in question.
The CFA seems reluctant to launch into a full-fledged strike but its leaders say that action must be taken.
“We have said all along that we don’t want to strike, but we will if we need to,” Travis said.
Travis stressed recent mistakes made by the CSU that have landed executives in hot water, noting that the system is currently being investigated for wage fraud and for its Board of Trustees approving raises for themselves.
“It is clear that this administration is not making the best decisions for the California State University,” Travis said. “Now the faculty are going ? to let their voices be heard.”
Sunshine explained that in order for a strike vote to pass on a single campus, a majority must vote to authorize the rolling strikes.
“We’re taking these actions under duress,” she said, adding that the schedule for rolling strikes would not be determined until strike votes are cast.
“The strike depends on the withholding of labor” of all faculty, Travis said.
When asked about the possibility that the CSU could survive the ill effects of the rolling strikes with assistant professors, and any strikes in the future should negotiations remain at a standstill, Travis replied in a confident manner, saying that this action on the CSU’s part “would be very difficult” for the system.
The faculty is seeking a raise, smaller classes and better benefits. They also desire different hiring patterns. Currently, they say, new faculty are wooed to the universities in the system and paid the same salary as professors who have more seniority.
Paul Browning, a spokesman for the CSU system, said the announcement of the strike vote was not a surprise.
“We kind of anticipated that,” Browning said.
Browning said the CSU hopes things can be worked through without a strike.
“We are hoping that (we) will come to an agreement,” he said. “We don’t think it’s in the best interests of the students, (who) are a priority.”
Ballard said he hopes the confirmation of a strike vote will convince the CSU that the CFA will not back down without a fight.
“It’s our hope that the strike vote will be a wake up call,” he said.
Ballard said while he is still waiting to see the effectiveness of a presentation he gave during an Associated Students Senate meeting this month, the CFA has received support from professors on campus.
Last week, the CFA held a lunchtime informative strike meetings in the Orange Grove Bistro to drum up support and answer faculty’s questions about the upcoming strikes.
Ballard said that with these meetings – and a picket session held Feb. 7 – the CFA has increased its on campus support.