COVID-19 Relief Necessary for CSU’s Working Parents and Caregivers

We continue to fight for paid administrative leave for faculty who need to adjust their schedules to accommodate their CSU commitments and family obligations.

Chancellor Joseph I. Castro’s labor relations team wrote to CFA last week that the CSU currently “does not find a paid course reduction program to be operationally feasible,” for spring. This is perplexing since, sadly, California’s rate of COVID-19 infections and deaths have not changed much, and in some cases have gotten worse, since fall. Also, the CSU is sitting on $1.7 billion in reserves, and will soon receive nearly $800 million in another round of COVID-19 federal stimulus money.

CFA believes that with COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, daycare and K-12 schools closed or online, working parents and those with other dependents and caregiving responsibilities should be eligible for a paid workload reduction rather than being forced to take unpaid time off or leave the workforce entirely.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare systemic racism in society as we bear witness to its disparate effects on Black, Indigenous and people of color who account for a disproportionate share of the sick and dead,” said Sharon Elise, CFA Associate Vice President of Racial & Social Justice, South. “Moreover, the pandemic has exacerbated systemic sexism that relegates caregiving to women, who are expected to take on child and elder care, and tend to the emotional needs of their anxiety-ridden family members. When employers like the CSU refuse to relieve this burden, some women reduce their work or leave the workforce, with egregious results for their careers and economic well-being. The worst of this burden is born by women of color who are confronting the triple pandemics of COVID-19, systemic racism, and systemic sexism.”

CFA leaders met with CSU management this week to discuss a leave program. While CFA looked to develop a policy that improved on what was offered by the CSU and federal relief in the fall, the CSU proposed something akin to sick leave that would require discretionary approval by an administrator. At least with sick leave, you don’t generally need to get permission.

Moreover, the CSU proposal fails to address the realities of faculty parents and caregivers of elders or those sick with COVID-19. Faculty could take paid time off for a day here and there, but the proposal does not adequately mitigate the workload problem faced by most faculty. Being able to take a day off does not make the work stop or magically disappear for faculty. The work is still there and must be performed at some point, so there is not any real relief on the table.

The CSU’s COVID-19 leave proposal is yet another example of the lack of real understanding and compassionate and responsible leadership at the Chancellor’s Office. It fails to address the real work needs of faculty as they juggle delivering quality education to students and take care of children and family members during the pandemic. We demand a COVID-19 leave and relief proposal that respects the humanity of our faculty and we will fight to secure it.  

In addition to CFA leaders negotiating directly with the Chancellor’s Office, faculty are working at the campus and community level to fight for working families. For example, CFA Long Beach members are organizing their coworkers to convince deans, their provost, their campus president, and Chancellor Castro of the importance of COVID-19 leave – for students, families, and the CSU.

Join the fight to demand COVID-19 leave!  Contact your respective CFA chapter leaders to get involved: Northern California and Southern California. We want our members to tell their stories of childcare and family care wherever they can, to their campus administration, to their communities, to the legislature, to media, and to Chancellor Castro.  He has the opportunity to get this right.