August 23, 2018 Convocation Speech
James Martel, CFA President

            Thank you President Wong, Provost Summit, Senate chair Gerber, and all of the faculty and staff who contributed to organizing this event. Colleagues and friends, welcome back! I am James Martel the chapter president of the SFSU branch of the California Faculty Association, a union that represents both lecturer, tenure and tenure track faculty, coaches, counselors and librarians on all 23 campuses of the California State University System. Our union is over 27,000 members strong.

            I want to extend a special welcome  to the new faculty, both tenure track and lecturer faculty. This is a unique place marked by a strong devotion to issues of social justice and academic freedom. This year, we mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Black Student Union/Third World Strike which led to the creation of the College of Ethnic Studies, which to this day is the only College of Ethnic Studies in the United States, maybe the world! In that spirit, I’d like to make a few remarks about how the union contributes to that mission and how we will continue to work with the administration and the Academic Senate to ensure that SFSU continues to reflect these values. We always say that our working conditions are the students’ learning conditions and part of what makes those conditions a success is our resilience and our common purpose.

            Our chapter is working with the central CFA office and other chapters on certain key issues that I’d like to talk to you about briefly, so you can get an idea of what our union is about. As many of you know, the CFA and the CSU agreed to an extension of our contract by two years, expiring in July of 2020. This means that we got two years of labor peace, a chance to focus on issues beyond the bread and butter issues of salaries and benefits. But this doesn’t mean that those most basic issues have been ignored; by extending the contract as we did, we also repeated the raises that we received. On November 1st faculty will get a 3.5% raise and then in July you’ll get a 2.5% raise again. The CFA also lobbied for and received $364 million for funding for the CSU which was well over the original $263 million the CSU itself requested. The CFA also worked with student groups to put on a major show of strength in Sacramento on April 4th, asking the CSU not to raise tuition this spring and that too was a success.

            One key issue that the CFA as a whole is strongly devoted to is to fight racism and other forms of bigotry at all levels. As part of the effort to combat racism we ran several Unconscious Bias workshops and I would encourage all of the faculty here to attend one as they are really helpful and do a lot of important work. I’ve also talked to president Wong about the possibility of having these workshops for administrators too. The point of these is not to say that we are all racists but rather to show how racism is insinuated in so many aspects of our professional lives; to recognize this allows us a chance to make fundamental changes. We will be running more of these workshops as well as new workshops devoted to anti-racism and social justice work in the future.

            Another key point that we are involved in is political work, supporting candidates who support labor and especially who support what we do here at the CSU. Part of that work also involves demonstrations and protest and I’d invite all of you to take part in a massive demonstration that the CFA will participate in on Sept 8th to fight Climate Change. We are doing this in alliance with many groups and every one is invited. If you are interested, we will meet as a group on Steuart St at the Embarcadero at 10 am that day. The march will go from Justin Herman Plaza at 11 o’clock to the civic center. As the very air we breath is full of smoke from massive fires that rage across California largely due to climate change, I can’t think of a more important time to get out on the streets!

            The CFA is also devoted to organizing itself both horizontally and vertically. We continue to develop our departmental representative system so that each department will have a tenure track and a lecturer faculty representative. The idea is to have ideas and energy flow between the rank and file of our union and the executive board and myself. We have had a lot of success in organizing this and we will continue to emphasize this activity in the year to come. If you are in a department that does not yet have these representatives, you can expect to have an election soon. And we are going to convene our current departmental reps soon to have our first meeting to discuss many issues and concerns that we all share.

            The last thing I want to say is that we’ve been working with the administration and the academic senate on issues of common interest. I firmly believe that we are all much stronger when we stand together. I’ve been meeting regularly with President Wong and will also be meeting regularly with Provost Summit and with Nancy Gerber the Academic Senate Chair to discuss issues of common concern and I look forward to more of that collaboration as we enter the academic year.

            Finally: let’s all do the Union clap!