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Spring 2012 Strike Q&A

Image of Spring 2012 Strike Q&A
Photo by Justin Kerns, CSU East Bay Pioneer

Dear CFA members,

After 18 long months of trying to reach a labor agreement with the administration of the California State University, the Board of Directors of the California Faculty Association unanimously decided on February 20, 2012 to authorize a vote of our members to determine whether or not they want to move forward with a strike should mediation and fact finding fail to yield a fair settlement.

This will be the second time that CSU faculty has taken a strike vote in past four months. The last vote addressed unresolved issues in the now expired contract. That vote was followed by massive one-day strikes at CSU East Bay and Dominguez Hills on November that literally shut down those campuses.

The new vote, which will be held in mid-April, concerns negotiations for the next contract. These talks have gotten bogged down by management’s insistence on a variety of “take-back” proposals that would dramatically alter the quality of education faculty are able to provide. The changes sought by management would increasingly move the CSU towards a “for-profit model” that is currently the subject of much public scrutiny for its exploitation of desperate working class and students of color as well as staggeringly high student loan default rates.

The voting will take place on campus between April 16, 2012 and April 27th and will be conducted on site at the faculty’s respective campuses and by an electronic online mechanism. Results of the voting will be announced shortly thereafter.

Impact of fall strikes at East Bay and Dominguez Hills

The fall strikes were incredibly successful. All of you did superb work on framing the strike so that we got our long-term issues – and our immediate bargaining issues – out in the public realm in ways that will be very helpful for our contract fight this spring and our other battles beyond.

The strike first and foremost increased our internal solidarity. In addition, it increased our credibility with the media, the legislature, and in the general public. It also escalated our fight for a fair contract. The bottom line is, your work on November 17 did what we want all our work to do – it increased our power:

  • Increased the pressure on the Chancellor at the bargaining table.
  • Showed him and the Board of Trustees how very angry faculty are at his policies and proposals.
  • Showed that we can have success with the press getting our message out even in difficult economic times.
  • Demonstrated to Chancellor Reed that we can do MORE than threaten to strike—we actually have the capacity to pull off a strike.
  • Demonstrated to the legislature that there is great anger and unrest among faculty on campuses – made many lawmakers more willing to turn up the pressure on the administration and Trustees at the Capitol.

We have built up a substantial amount of pressure but we are still not there yet. That is why the Board of Directors recommended a strike vote – we need to keep up the pressure by escalating our work in the field.

Q1: How is this strike vote different from the vote we took in the fall?

In the fall we were striking based on Article 31 (31.11 and 31.26 to be exact) of our contract, which made it legal for us go on strike over the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 raises that were never implemented. As we indicated to the media, however, the issues that had enflamed the faculty were much larger than these raises.

The strike vote now scheduled for mid-April is based on our successor (or next) contract. The issues involved in this dispute are much broader and will have a long term and profound impact on our ability to provide quality education to our students, to ensure that our professional judgment helps to shape the future of our institution, and to protect public higher education in California. For more information on the issues see http://www.calfac.org/bargaining-updates-info-0

Q2: Don’t we still have to go through mediation and fact-finding? Why are we taking a strike vote this spring?

The California Faculty Association initially proposed an extension of the current contract, which the CSU administration brushed aside. For eighteen months the CFA Bargaining Team has worked hard to reach a fair and equitable labor agreement with the CSU administration. While the team continues to hope that the statutory process – mediation and fact-finding – will yield positive results, the California Faculty Association’s Board of Directors believes that the time has come to prepare our members and our campuses for all contingencies – including the need to strike.

Q3: Who would actually call for a strike?

A strike would be called by the CFA Board of Directors.

Q4: Will we vote on authorizing a strike?

Yes. On February 20th the CFA Board of Directors passed the following resolution: The Board of Directors of the California Faculty Association authorizes, as recommended by the bargaining team, a strike vote to be held on all 23 campuses between April 16 and April 27, 2012. The vote will ask the faculty to give the Board of Directors the authority to call for a series of two-day rolling strikes should mediation and fact-finding fail to yield a fair settlement. The voting process will allow for both electronic and in-person secret ballots.

Q5: Can I vote on the strike electronically?

Yes. As noted above, voting will be done in person and electronically.

Q6: Who can vote to authorize a strike?

Only active CFA members can vote to authorize a strike, but any non-member is encouraged to join and have his or her vote counted. You may join CFA by going to the “To Join” section of the CFA website, www.calfac.org, or by contacting your CFA chapter office for a membership form.

Q7: If faculty vote to authorize a strike, does that mean we will definitely strike?

Not necessarily. A variety of other strategic factors would need to be weighed before a strike would actually be called.

Q8: What dates would the CFA Board of Directors be considering for possible strike activity if faculty vote to authorize it?

Naturally, no strike activity is under consideration for dates prior to April 27.

If no settlement on the successor contract is reached, however, a system-wide two-day rolling strike could be called for future dates.

Q9: What is a system-wide two-day rolling strike?

In a two-day rolling strike all 23 campuses would be broken into groups, with each group of campuses going on strike for two days on different dates. As one set of campuses finished their two day strike, another set of campuses would begin their two-day strike until all campuses had participated.

This is an escalation over the one-day strike on two campuses that we carried out in the fall. All campuses will participate for two days each.

Q10: If the CFA Board of Directors were to call for a two-day rolling strike, what would happen next?

As we did the last time we were preparing to strike, CFA will provide ample information that will help everyone understand how the strike(s) will be conducted. The materials will explain exactly what you are being asked to do, what your rights are, and how to handle a variety of situations.

Q11: When will the results of the strike vote be made public?

Strike vote results will be announced after the ballots are counted at the end of the voting period. The results of the strike card vote will be announced at the most strategic time, depending on developments at the bargaining table and other factors.

To approve a strike, a majority of CFA members must vote in favor (50% plus 1).

Q12: Can I take sick leave in order to participate in a strike action?

No. Sick leave may only be used for sickness. Any other use constitutes fraud.

Q13: If I teach on the dates selected for my campus’s two day strike, can I take my personal holiday on one of those days?

According to our contract, a faculty member may request to take any day as a personal holiday, but the appropriate administrator (or designee) has to approve the request. Under strike conditions, it is unlikely that administrators will approve such requests.

Q14: If a strike is called on my campus, could my participation lead to dismissal or other disciplinary actions?

No. If a legal strike were called, it would be unlawful for the administration to attempt to dismiss or discipline any faculty member for participating. CFA attorneys on staff, on retainer, and from our national affiliates would assist any individual or groups experiencing any negative outcome as a result of work actions.

Q15: If a strike is called on my campus, could my pay be docked if I participate?

Yes.

Q16: If a strike were called on my campus could I cancel some of my classes but perform other job duties?

No. If you did so you would not be protected from possible disciplinary action. If you participate in a strike that has been called on your campus, you must cancel all your classes and refrain from performing any of your scheduled job duties in order to be protected from discipline. You may not choose which job duties to perform and engage in a “partial strike.” For example, your strike activity would not be protected from possible discipline if you canceled a class in the morning but taught another class, held office hours, or attended a committee meeting in the afternoon unless the strike had ended.

Q17: I don’t like the idea of striking. I just want to teach my classes and do my research. Why don’t we just work harder at the bargaining table to get a settlement?

As we have said many times, collective bargaining with this Chancellor is not a rational process, and we cannot win fair deals simply because we have the most compelling facts or the strongest arguments. (The Chancellor has, in fact, totally disregarded the reports of two neutral fact-finders in the last three rounds of fact-finding. His reluctant agreement with the third came only under the threat of a strike in 2007.) That’s why we need to bring our facts and arguments to the students, the parents, and the general public through activities like informational picketing.

There simply must be “action away from the table” in order to get “action at the table.”

Q18: Faculty on my campus support the fight for fairness but some don’t like “labor union”-type actions. Can’t we just opt out of the actions part of the campaign?

Of course, your chapter could. But we all have an obligation to think about the consequences of that choice. By opting out—or even by not pulling its weight—a CFA chapter would actually weaken the efforts of the 22 other campuses who are opting in. In this particular case, opting out of a strike action will leave the faculty on the other campuses with a huge burden to bear without the support we all know we owe them.

Q19: Isn’t there someone outside the CSU who can convince the Chancellor to reach a settlement?

Outside influence on the Chancellor is certainly important, but faculty taking action is key. Nobody else will (or should be expected to) come to our aid, support our cause, or even want to hear our story unless there is clear evidence that faculty are prepared to act on our own behalf. With that said, CFA continues to work with our allies to bring pressure on the Chancellor to settle a fair contract.

Q20: What is the problem here? why haven’t you settled a contract?

This contract dispute is an important flashpoint in a larger disagreement about priorities in the CSU.

On one side, CSU faculty have fought for years to defend the mission of the CSU – a quality, affordable education for Californians.

That’s why we are asking for a faculty voice in class sizes, a 1% raise to retain excellent teachers, and assurances on academic freedom.

On the other side, CSU administration has pursued a for-profit model of education – which is why they are giving 10% raises to executives, have hiked student fees 318% in the last decade, and are demanding that campus presidents be given total power to fire positively evaluated, long-term faculty for any reason whatsoever.

Q21: We heard the sides in the faculty contract negotiations will go back to bargaining in May. Is that right?

We are going back to the table. Our goal is to get a contract.

Keep in mind, though, sitting at the table and actual bargaining are different things.

When we meet again in May, the Chancellor and his people need to be open to bargaining on the important issues before us.

The Chancellor says there are just a few small issues left on the table and this strike vote is just about a pay raise for the faculty.

It is statements like these that make it so difficult to bargain with CSU managers.

The CSU management has completely refused to entertain the issues that matter the most to faculty – such as a faculty voice in class sizes, and assurances on academic freedom. They even have rejected proposals that could SAVE the CSU money – like allowing some faculty to retire early.

It’s clear there are more outstanding issues than the CSU would like you to believe.

Even the “few” issues they suggest are “small” are hugely important to faculty.

For example, giving campus presidents absolute power to determine the employment futures of over half of CSU faculty is a big issue. It’s a big issue for our members, and we believe it is a big issue for ensuring a stable, quality faculty workforce for our students.

Q22: What are the important issues to CFA?

  • Protecting our students from over-crowded classrooms

– We believe the people who teach classes should have some substantive input on the size of those classes, in order to ensure that students get the individual attention and educational experience they need.
– Management was not willing to even discuss class size.

  • Taking away the Lecturers’ right to a 3-year contract

– Right now, after six years of good teaching and evaluations a minimum of once every year, Lecturers get a three-year appointment for future work if there are courses offered that they are qualified to teach.
– It is very minimal job security for successful, good teachers.
– The Chancellor wants to take away that minimal assurance of work for quality teachers.
– He would make it the whim of top executives on each campus to hand out those appointments or not.
– He calls this an “evaluation.”
– We think he’s wrong. These 3-year appointments help keep teachers around to see students all the way to graduation.

  • Academic freedom to teach students a wide range of ideas.
     

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