Impact Of Privatization On CSU Faculty And Bargaining Our Contract

By Elizabeth Hoffman, Kevin Wehr & Andy Merrifield
CFA Bargaining Team members

Bargaining the next faculty contract has been so difficult that the process is now in mediation.

To understand why, we must look at the worrisome vision for higher education that the Chancellor and CSU Trustees are trying to impose on the California State University. They want a university that costs students more, gives more power and discretion to management, outsources work to non-CSU contractors, and limits faculty rights, faculty authority, and faculty compensation.

One of the “barriers” the Chancellor’s Office has named as an impediment to his vision is the faculty contract.

Up front, we should emphasize that our contract is what protects the faculty’s rights and livelihood. Chancellor Reed has accused the contract of impeding what he deems to be progress, but in fact his changes would take both the contract and the system away from quality education.

Our Contract Protects Us

We need the protection of our contract because the faculty, like so many others in the American middle class, could be crushed in the push for negative change by managers who do not care about our livelihoods or our families. This is what is happening to vast numbers of middle-class Americans—the large sector of the 99%.

We also need the protection of our contract to make sure that change is good for teaching. There are a great many aspects of our contract that address life on our campuses, affect how teaching is done, and have a positive impact on the quality of the education we can provide. Our contract helps us have the power to take a stand not only for our own families, but also for our students who along with us strive to join the middle class.

Our contract inserts into our working lives some of the best values for the people of our country.

Abandoning The Public University

It’s sad that the Chancellor and his core of top managers have come to describe our contract as a “barrier” to their goals for the CSU.

We find that they are abandoning rapidly the notion of a public university that creates opportunity for all Californians to affordable, quality higher education regardless of each student’s ability to pay.

In the hype to impose their for-profit model in place of our public university system, they are using CSUresources to vastly increase the number of out-of-state students, even at the price of displacing our students here in California who need support from educators and the public to achieve a college degree.

The Chancellor’s goal is a university based on the private, for-profit model. It’s a model arising in an era in which public institutions of all kinds are deemed to be bad or, at least, unsustainable.

The for-profit model of higher education, in addition to removing the need to pursue public support for public education even in tough times, provides executives more flexibility, increased power, and greater discretion— in other words what makes their jobs easier. Plus, management gets excessive compensation. This is the industrial model of a previous time, when inequality was the celebrated reality.

Reed’s Actions Speak Loudly

We see this for-profit model embedded in many of the actions Chancellor Reed and his management have taken just in the last two years:

  • Reducing severely the number of faculty with permanent jobs. We have an increasingly temporary and at-will faculty workforce—there are 500 fewer tenuretrack positions in the CSU just in the last year.
  • Refusing to honor very modest pay raises he agreed to in the last Collective Bargaining Agreement while giving his top executives excessive pay raises of up to $100,000 per year.
  • Refusing to pay the step increases that other state employees receive. (It is well documented that step raises are cost neutral as over time employees enter on low-paying rungs and others leave from higher rungs. The state of California routinely pays other state employees step raises even while the funding battle over state government rages.)
  • Refusing to honor the equity plan that two neutral investigators who looked into the CSU’s capacity to honor this plan said in their “fact-finding” reports should be completed.
  • Pursuing an online, virtual campus called Cal State Online designed by managers and consultants without sufficient CSU faculty consultation that will increase costs for students.
  • Spending over $6 million on outside union-busting lawyers to be his chief negotiators on employee contracts (money that could have covered the faculty’s unpaid equity raises in our last contract).
  • Hiking drastically student tuition and fees instead of campaigning for the state funding the CSU really needs to educate students. In fact, Reed has given CSU money back to the state while slashing academic programs and class offerings.

More proof of Reed’s intent to “for-profitize” the CSU can be found in the demands that his labor relations consultants and staff have placed on the negotiating table for the next faculty contract. His contract demands would:

  • Move more classes out of the regular university program into the for-profit extension arm of the CSU where faculty get paid less without benefits and students pay much more.
  • Increase the discretionary power of campus presidents in many areas of work including student evaluations, sabbaticals, and Retention-Tenure-Promotion decisions.
  • Decrease the number of permanent positions.
  • Make the temporary faculty even more temporary by eliminating contact protections for long-time lecturers.
  • Limit contract protections to statesupport sessions only; in other words, the contract would not apply to the forprofit programs Reed is trying to implement and expand.
  • Reduce faculty pay for teaching in summer session.
  • Move almost all summer work to selfsupport,
  • Increase parking fees for faculty, an effective pay cut.

Reed and his bargaining representatives have not responded to the CFA Bargaining Team’s proposals that would help to relieve the severe faculty workload issues, including drastically increased class sizes that overload the ability of teachers to give students the attention they need. This is a central challenge to saving the quality of education in the CSU.

Nor have CSU managers been willing to take up ways to solve inequities for counselors, librarians, and coaches. They have ignored CFA proposals to protect academic freedom necessary to teach and do research in our disciplines.

They would take back a long list of improvements in working conditions the faculty have won in contracts negotiated since the 1980s.

The CSU administrators refuse to compromise in bargaining because they believe they can defeat us simply by waiting out the bargaining process.

If CSU management achieves the contract they want, they can achieve the changes they want in the public university. They seek to divide the faculty from supporting each other to undermine the pillar of our power—our contract.

We need to be clear with Reed’s management and with the people of California. The faculty will embrace change that meets the needs of students and that strengthens our Public university, with all the values that support a strong middle class.

We cannot and will not accept change that turns the CSU into a private corporate entity and our students into customers and profit-centers. This change takes the university backwards and harms the students, the faculty, the staff and the people of California who benefit from the public good that the public university is.

We will fight for a contract that protects a stable workforce and, more importantly, protects the quality of public higher education.