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Dear President Mahoney, Provost Summit, AVP of Human Resources Williams, Director of Employee and Labor Relations Pollard, and Manager of Systemwide Labor Relations Le:

The following is a message put out concurrently by the lead representatives of many bargaining units on campus. We have been meeting on a regular basis and will continue to do so to ensure that labor on our campus remains strong and united in opposing cuts, layoffs and other such measures. 

There Are Alternatives to Layoffs! We Must Mobilize United to Oppose them!

Early in September, the SFSU administration laid off 131 staff members from CSUEU and Teamster unions, and it plans to lay off between 12 to 15 MPPs (top administrators). For context, system-wide CSU layoffs (across all 23 campuses) amount to only 300 staff workers so far — meaning SFSU layoffs comprises a third of all CSU layoffs. What’s more, though CSU is laying off 99 MMPs for 300 staff — a ratio of 1MPP to 3 staff —  the SFSU ratio is 1 MPP to 7 staff. Two questions arise immediately: why are we taking a third of the CSU cuts? And why are we losing staff at dramatically higher rates than other campuses, when compared to MPPs?

This issue is compounded by the fact that SFSU has added MPPs at the highest rate (66%) of any CSU in the last 8 years. In much of its email correspondence to the campus community, the President laments that there is no alternative because there is no money, thus she is regrettably “forced” to cut jobs. We would like to thoroughly disagree with that, and put forward an alternative to the cuts: full budget transparency, solidarity between unions and students, and salary caps for top paid employees.

We demand full budget transparency:

First, it is unacceptable that neither the CSU nor the SFSU administration have explained in a clear and detailed manner how the CSU’s billion-dollar “rainy day” fund has been (or will be) allocated to mitigate the devastating effects of this crisis. A 2019 state audit revealed that “the California State University system amassed a surplus of more than $1.5 billion over 10 years, hiding it from students and the public even as the trustees doubled tuition to nearly $6,000 and collected rising amounts of state funding, the state’s independent auditor said Thursday.”

Second, we need a clear review of how the SFSU administration has been spending the different allocations of the CARES Act. The guidance issued by the Department of Education for administering the CARES money is very clear: SFSU’s $14 million in institutional support should be dedicated to the core “business” of the university – that is, teaching and learning.  Instead, as the figures below demonstrate, SF State administrators have directed only about a third of the CARES money to support the academic mission of the university. Actually, the overwhelming bulk of the university’s CARES money–$9 million–has instead been funneled into Housing, an auxiliary enterprise designated as one of the university’s ‘self-support programs’   meant to generate their own revenue to sustain operations. At SF State, these include: Housing, Parking, Student Health, and Campus Recreation. As the name “auxiliary” implies, these operations are not at all central to “instructional delivery” nor to the academic work of the university. 

Why divert CARES funding to an auxiliary program instead of maintaining the jobs of instructional support staff who have since been laid off? Why remain opaque about plans (or lack thereof) to use the rainy-day funds in the midst of an economic crisis? Before asking SFSU faculty, staff and students to accept that job cuts are inevitable, we need concrete answers from the administration about how money has and will be spent.

We can “cut from the top” to preserve the essential mission of the university:

There is yet another simple answer to budget decisions — chop from the top. This can be done in two ways: first by cutting more administrative (MPP) positions, and replacing those positions with staff positions, and second by capping the wages of the top-paid administrators in our campus for a limited period of time. 

The first option could counteract the administrative bloat we have seen at SFSU in recent years, where administrative positions once again grew by 66% from 2012-2018 and in the same timespan tenure track faculty hiring declined,. Replacing MPPs with staff positions has the added benefit of long-term economic sustainability in maintaining staff instructional support, given that staff jobs are less costly to the university.

The CFA has suggested MPP salary caps of $125,000 across the board for the duration of the crisis. Given that some MPPs receive anywhere from $50,000 to over $100,000 in benefits, setting a cap on benefits is still another reasonable step towards cost-cutting. The average salary for MPPs at the Administrator IV rank is $185,000; a salary cap for all 596 CSU employees at this level would generate over $35 million. 

Our solutions to this crisis must be guided by the principles of solidarity and racial and social justice:

Finally, we argue that our solutions need to be guided also by the principles of solidarity, racial justice, and social justice that SFSU claims to uphold. These principles are part of a longstanding and rich history of the struggles of working people in this country and on our own campus. In our fight to protect workers and their jobs, we recognize that economic precarity goes hand in hand with racial oppression — the national trend of disparate COVID outcomes among Black and Brown communities is reflected here in the Bay Area, at the same time that SFSU issue jobs cuts that strip away workers’ healthcare.

We reject the “divide and conquer” rhetoric that justifies or legitimizes cuts to one sector in order to make concessions to another (i.e. the flawed arguments that staff jobs were cut because faculty demanded implementation of the COVID paid leave program, or that staff and faculty demands for better wages and benefits will result in student fee hikes). These rationales follow from the bogus zero-sum neoliberal framework of austerity. We oppose the neoliberal narrative and propose instead to institute radically democratic governance in our university. This can and should include the oversight of our institutional finances by an elected board of union and student representatives, as it is the case in many public institutions abroad. 

James Martel, CFA

Sandee Noda, CSUEU

Deborah Elia, Teamsters

Jamil Sheared, APC

Kay Gamo, UAPD