The Fight for Five
The faculty take a stand for respect, fair pay and the future of teaching in the CSU

By Kevin Wehr
Chair, CFA Bargaining Team

Last Fall, we settled a strong three-year contract that contains workload relief for all California State University faculty and so ant non-economic gains.

However, on salary, the contract contained only a “down payment” covering compensation in the contract’s first year, 2014-2015. The 3% increase to the total compensation pool for the faculty was divided based on agreed-upon re-distributive corrections for past wrongs.

These included:

  • Reclassification for about about 2000 lecturers who had been wrongly classified and as a result were severely underpaid for their work.  
  • A 3% Salary Recovery Adjustment for those faculty who were below the Service Salary Increase Maximum—about 40% of CSU faculty languished in this unfair salary limbo. 
  • A 1.6% General Salary Increase for all faculty (about 60% of faculty received only this GSI, which CFA’s Bargaining Team knew needed to be redressed in the second year of the contract).  

Though this was much less than faculty deserved, faculty ratified the contract and these salary increases acted as “triage” to “stop the bleeding” after seven years of salary stagnation.

In the 2014 negotiations, management pro-posed that in years 2 and 3 of the contract (2015-16 and 2016-17), there would be a 2% compensation pool increase. Faculty rejected this low-ball salary proposal for the contract years 2 and 3, and instead agreed to re-open salary negotiations.After extensive discussion and consultation with CFA’ councils, and committees, the Bargaining Team re-opened Article 31 in May this year.

They claimed that the 3% compensation pool agreed upon last year actually cost them much more than they bargained for. Theyouts for lecturers claiming that they had underestimated the cost due to their own poor data.  

We stand by our numbers and our members, but the Chancellor’s team will not budge from their offensively low 2% proposal.

Then they factored in the campus-based discretionary equity programs in their calculations. This remains an intellectually dishonest approach, since Equity Pay was campus-based money, not centrally-funded from the Chancellor’, and because it was required to remediate—we can call them “bad”—hiring and pay practices engaged at the campus level. 

With some generous rounding up, management claims our members got close to 5% pay increases, on average.  

As we all know from our monthly pay-checks, faculty got nowhere near this amount—especially the approximately 60% of faculty who received only 1.6%. In short, management claimed that faculty are actually doing quite well, and all is “coming up roses” in the CSU.

In our bargaining sessions over salary for 2015-2016, we shared our own data analysis of salary for faculty and personal stories of members who are unable to get by.  

We presented the Race to the Bottom papers, reviewing with the Chancellor’s team what has happened over the last 10 years as the CSU has underfunded its core mission of direct instruction. CSU faculty lag behind others in public higher education institutions, the community colleges, and our K-12 colleagues in California.  

Furthermore, the Race to the Bottom papers showed that faculty are disillusioned with both our institution and the profession. Sadly, throughout our presentations, the management team acted alternatively bored or distracted, diddling with their phones and checking their email. 

They behaved like your worst student in the back row of the classroom. It is shameful and infuriating.

We proposed that faculty receive a 5% GSI plus an SSI for those eligible because we heard from members, and we know that faculty are suffering stagnated, compressed, and inverted salaries—last year’s raises did little to address this substantially.

We made this case to them again and again, but management remained unpersuaded. We gave them all the reasons to care, but we can’t force them to even pay attention, let alone care—at least not at the bargaining table.

In June, the CSU budget got an unexpected but hard-fought boost from legislators who CFA members lobbied heavily. But we know that the state budget contribution to the CSU has little or no relation to raises that faculty get.  

In good times and in bad times, our salaries have remained flat.

We stand by our numbers and our members, but the Chancellor’s team will not budge from their offensively low 2% proposal. Since the sides did not agree at the table, we declared impasse and are working our way thr the statutory process.

After the Declaration of Impasse (7/22/15), we entered Mediation with a state-appointed mediator (8/31/15 and 10/8/15).  

In the history of labor relations with CSU management, CFA has not settled a contract during mediation. We fully expect to move to Factfinding with a neutral third party to further make our case. Factfinding will produce a report in which one side will “win” (at least in some ways—it is not alway definitive).

Once the Factfinding report is made public (and only then), both sides can use their respective “economic weapons.” We can undertake “concerted activities” (strike) and management can impose their “last, best,” offer (imposition).

Why can’t we get what we want at the table?

Bargaining is sometimes about persuasion and negotiation, but only when both sides behave rationally and have an overlapping set of interests. Since management is not open to persuasion and has an entirely different set of priorities than faculty, negotiations are less rational than they are about power.

So how do we win the 5% plus SSI that our faculty deserve? We need to force management to pay attention; we need to make them care.  

Since this has not worked at the bargaining table, we need faculty to take action on campuses and at the Chancellor’ We need a strong show of faculty power. We need to organize, we need to have a strong turn out at visibility events. We need to show the Chancellor that we will stand up for what is fair.  Together we are powerful. n  

In addition to serving as chair of CFA’s Bargaining Team, Kevin Wehr is CFA Associate VP North and President of the CFA Capitol Chapter. He teaches Sociology at CSU Sacramento.