Faculty, students, allies converge to Fight for Five in Long Beach

On Tuesday Nov. 17, faculty, students, community leaders, labor allies and supporters showed Chancellor Timothy White and the CSU Trustees what solidarity looks and sounds like.

More than 1,000 people converged on Golden Shore in Long Beach that day to march and rally for increased investment in faculty salaries.

CFA is fighting for a 5% General Salary Increase (GSI) for all faculty and a 2.65% Service Salary Increase (SSI) for eligible faculty. CSU management has refused to move off of its paltry 2% raise in the second year of the contract, resulting in the sides reaching impasse and CFA members authorizing a strike if agreement isn’t reached.

“Our turnout and energy showed CSU management, without a doubt, just how strong we are and what it will look like if we are pushed to strike,” said Jennifer Eagan, CFA President and a professor at Cal State East Bay.

CFA’s November 17 day of action began at 5 am with faculty picketing in front of the Chancellor’s office. As chants peppered the early morning air, Southern California TV news crews interviewed CFA leaders.

The picket continued into mid-morning, when faculty began arriving at the march starting point about a mile away. There, the crowd gathered their picket signs and were entertained with music from a truck bed stage while they waited for the 11 am march.

As a live news feed covered the marchers embarking on the trek to the Chancellor’s Office, the huge crowd headed down Elm toward Ocean Boulevard. Once on Ocean, they chanted and beat drums, pausing at three hotels along the way to show support for workers, who came outside to support the Fight for Five.

At the corner of Ocean and Golden Shore, marchers received horns, whistles and clappers. The noise from the chanting and noisemakers echoed for about a quarter mile, and could be heard inside the Trustees meeting.

“Ignoring us seems to have been your strategy so far, and it’s not working,” Eagan told Trustees earlier that morning.

“We are your faculty. We’re not going away, and we’re not getting any less angry as time passes. We urge you to open your eyes, hear the voices outside, and respond to honor your faculty and avert a strike. It’s within your power.”

Inside the Trustees’ chambers, California State Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, both ex-officio members of the CSU Board of Trustees, expressed a desire to resolve the contract fight and the need to unify for the sake of advocating for CSU state funding moving forward.

Kevin Wehr, chair of the CFA Bargaining Team and a professor at Sacramento State, told Trustees that faculty “don’t want to strike, but we can and we will.”

“Your stubbornness has brought us to this place,” he said. “…It’s time to give back to those who labor in the trenches. You have to invest in those who make the students succeed: the faculty and staff.”

Jen Ovalle, a student at CSU Dominguez Hills said students would support faculty if they strike because they need “teachers who can spend time with their students.” Students have very little sympathy for Chancellor White, given that he “earns more than the President of the United States,” she said.

The crowd overflowed the plaza and street during the noon rally, where CFA officers, lawmakers, students and labor leaders urged the CSU to invest in the classroom instead of the boardroom.

Art Pulaski, Secretary-Treasurer of the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO told Trustees that workers throughout California support CFA’s Fight for Five, and then told the crowd that if faculty strike, labor is behind us. He also penned a letter to Chancellor White detailing labor’s support.

“On behalf of 2.1 million union members, we understand your plight. If you need to stop, put down your pens and pads and paper and get the attention you need, we will support you,” Pulaski told rally participants.

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, incoming Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, and Assemblymember and Chair of the Assembly Labor Committee Roger Hernandez, and Chair of the Assembly Education Committee Patrick O’Donnell were among elected officials who pledged their support for the Fight for Five during the rally. Assembly candidate Raul Bocanegra, Senate candidate Anthony Portantino, and Eric Bauman, vice chair of the CA Democratic Party and Chair of the LA County Democratic Party also addressed those gathered at the rally.

The crowd also heard from SEIU California State Council Executive Director Jon Youngdahl, Cal Poly Pomona student Berny Orantes, alumni Pati Guerra, and Carly Kirchen of Unite HERE.

The day concluded in the late afternoon with picketing in the quad outside the Chancellor’s Office, where dozens of faculty and students chanted and beat drums until the meeting inside concluded.

“We are the union! The mighty mighty union! Fighting for justice! And for education!”