Last week, thousands of CFA members across the state rallied together to picket at one-day strikes across four CSU campuses: Pomona, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Sacramento. Students, staff, and community allies picketed alongside faculty to demand fair wages for all faculty, raising the salary for our lowest-paid faculty, a full semester of paid parental leave, more counselors to support our students, faculty workload support, lactation rooms, gender-inclusive bathrooms and changing rooms.
After the performance of a lively mariachi band in the morning and a live music and dance session at the CSU Los Angeles noon rally, CFA President Charles Toombs went up on the back of a Teamsters Local 2010 truck and addressed a crowd of hundreds of engaged individuals. “We are so proud to see all our union siblings out here today helping us lead the cause in a transformation of the CSU. We have heard speakers say how CSU management is totally out of touch with the current generation of faculty, students, and staff. We are going to have to get them on the right track.”
Teamsters Local 2010 members held sympathy strikes and turned up as early as 5 a.m. on the four campuses to shut down construction sites (which can cause inconveniences to employers and lead to more serious problems like contract disputes), block mail delivery, slow traffic, and reroute public transit.
Teamsters Secretary-Treasurer Jason Rabinowitz said to the crowd at CSU Los Angeles, “We are fed up with workers being mistreated. We are fed up with management’s unfair practices and greed. Whose work makes the CSU work every day? Our work! We’re proud to stand here with CFA because your work keeps the classes running.”
Rabinowitz is right. Hector Maciel, the CSUEU President at Cal Poly Pomona, witnessed a vacant and nonfunctioning university when he went onto the Pomona campus on strike day. “CSUEU stands with CFA, and I want to report that Buildings 1, 3, 4, 5, 13, and 24 are completely shut down. There are no labs or classes. The library is empty,” said Maciel to a triumphant crowd of members and allies.
The desolate landscape reported by Maciel turned out to be a notable feature at the other three striking campuses, and it spoke to the CSU’s inability to exist without its faculty, students, and staff.
During Pomona’s noon rally, folklórico student dancers offered a stunning performance to a rendition of protest band Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Bad Moon Rising.Shortly after, Maria Gisela, a counselor at Cal Poly Pomona, took center stage and emphasized the need for more counselors across the entire CSU system. “We don’t have the adequate ratio to serve our students’ needs. For them to make it to the classroom to learn, they need to be feeling well. Let’s make it happen. They deserve that,” said Gisela.
Speaking to parenting faculty, Cal Poly Pomona Lecturer Cody Trokan lamented at the way some faculty are treated. “I’m here because the CSU hurts working families, children, and parents. Right now, we’re asking for an entire term to be granted to faculty when they’re up for paternity leave. I’ve had my colleagues work up until their due date and then are not given leave for the whole semester, but are supposed to return to work. It’s bad for our students who have faculty coming in and out of the classroom,” said Trokan passionately.
At San Francisco State, CFA San Francisco President Brad Erickson addressed the administration’s appalling plan to layoff a substantial number of lecturer faculty, despite having more than enough money to sustain its workforce and meet all of our demands. Erickson said, “As we’re fighting for a fair contract, the administration decided to cut about three hundred lecturer faculty for the spring. They’re cutting over 650 classes, which means students are slowed on their way to graduation, and they don’t have access to the electives that make this a special place. We’re about love because we want to keep what’s special about San Francisco, and management wants to tear it down.”
Rather than giving in to management’s disingenuous austerity messaging and returning to the classrooms, students donned red shirts, rang cow bells, blew horns, held signs, and chanted loudly with their faculty on the picket lines.
At CSU Los Angeles, Araceli Veloz, a Students for Quality Education (SQE) intern and member of Students Against Tuition Hikes (SATH), expressed the sentiments of many of the other students out on the line when she said, “We’re out here to show that students stand in solidarity. If the administration wants to say that they need to raise our tuition as students to pay professors more, we call B.S. We know they have billions of dollars sitting in reserves, and we shouldn’t have to pay the price for their financial mismanagement.”
As for getting paid a fair wage, San Francisco State Lecturer Abdur Sikder outlines the adversity of being a faculty member in the Bay Area. “I work full-time and I’m still unable to pay my rent. I commute two hours each way, because I can’t afford to rent a place here in San Francisco. It’s very important for us to survive. If faculty can’t survive, then students will not get the best education they deserve.”
Speaking on behalf of Dolores Huerta, a labor leader and civil rights activist, CSU Los Angeles Lecturer Jamila Guerrero-Cantor delivered Huerta’s message to striking members, “Your work as educators must be respected. The decision makers of the CSU system are failing to uphold the mission of public education by continuing inequities that will push people out of the transformative experience of higher education. You are striking because you believe in the power of education and the power of organizing labor.”
It was through this organizing effort and overwhelming support of everyone involved that CFA members were able to fully shut down all four striking universities.
In an invigorating moment, Sacramento State’s marching band journeyed from one end of their campus to the other, gathering striking members and allies along the way and growing infinitely larger. The thunderous sounds of drumming and brass instruments filled the otherwise quiet campus grounds. When they arrived at the main strike line, they were met with boisterous cheers for their commitment to be on the strike line to support faculty demands.
Mutually, Sacramento State Lecturer Francie Dillon centered the strike around the students’ well-being. “It’s so obvious that over the span of time, students need additional support,” Dillon said. “We have an incredible campus with amazing students, and we need to service them well so they can go out and do what they want to be doing. That’s our responsibility, and we need to give our students the best we can offer.”
Shortly after the noon rally where several CFA leaders and elected officials called on management to take seriously the demands of faculty, students, and staff, the combination of rain and wind began to dampen and drench handmade banners and signs. Yet somehow, the conditions greatly emboldened the resolve of those on the picket line. Picketers quickly threw on red CFA ponchos being handed out to them and transitioned from chants of “What do we want? Contract! When do we want it? Now!” to “Rain or shine, CFA walks the line!”
Ashley Green, with an umbrella raised over her head, explained why she joined the strike. “I’m out here today because I believe that CSU faculty deserve better treatment,” said Green, a student at Sacramento State. “I’ve seen the way that some of the faculty are treated, and I don’t believe they deserve it. They deserve better. I think it’s imperative that we get out here, protest with them, and make a difference at the CSU.”
CFA members and CSU management met Tuesday to reassess our proposed demands, and they made very little movement to meet those demands. If they continue to ignore the persistent injustices experienced by faculty, students, and staff, then we will continue with plans to escalate job actions into the Spring 2024 semester.