CFA members from across the state met at our Fall Assembly this past weekend to kick off voting to authorize a potential strike.

A group of women in red shirts pose for a photo infront of CFA banner.
From left: CFA members Theresa Montaño, Michelle Ramos-Pellicia. and Leda Ramos strike a pose at assembly last weekend.

Activists shared how they are educating and activating members, students, staff, and allies on their campuses and in their communities. CFA Chico members held a funeral possession for public higher education – accompanied by bagpipes. CFA Los Angeles and San Francisco members organized and invited other chapters to attend strike ready school. Other chapters held rallies with students and staff, and walked the halls to spread the word about re-opener bargaining and encourage members to cast a strike authorization vote.

In preparation for a possible strike, Assembly attendees reviewed picket line tips and mapped out their campus entrances for potential picket lines.

“I just voted yes for the strike authorization vote. I voted yes because this is a critical time for us to not only improve the working conditions of faculty but also to arrest the harm CSU (management) has done to our institution, to our state, and to our country because only when we have adequate working conditions, can we provide the kind of learning our students deserve,” said Rong Chen, CFA San Bernardino president and CSU San Bernardino English professor.

View photos from Assembly here.

At Assembly, members also took a deep dive into the CSU’s budget with accountant Howard Bunsis. The report detailed financial trends at the CSU and shows emphatically that there is more than enough money to fund our re-opener proposals.

The CSU has stockpiled a nearly $8 billion reserve fund, growing from $2 billion in 2006. The CSU also has surplus money at the end of each fiscal year.

“The reserve fund keeps growing. (CSU management takes) in more than they spend. They don’t even have to touch reserves to afford your proposals,” said Bunsis, an accounting professor at Eastern Michigan University and financial analyst. “These reserves have been built on your backs. These reserves have been built because they are not paying you what they should be. I’d ask them, to what end are you building this?  Why are you creating this big savings account that you say you can never use. For what purpose?”

The financial report also showed the largest growth in personnel spending is on administration – in both dollars and people hired – while spending on instruction support has shrunk. As many campuses circulate austerity messaging and begin plans to lay off faculty, Bunsis suggested the fiscally prudent move is to reduce administrative bloat before cutting instruction and programs that support students.

When it comes to potential enrollment declines, Bunsis noted any drops are self-imposed.

“The enrollment changes are self-inflicted by acts of the administration – the way they talk about budget cuts and student tuition increases. And, the tuition increases – I do not think those are necessary.”

View Bunsis’ Assembly presentation here, and the slides here.

Also at Assembly, members engaged in robust dialogue over several critical issues related to anti-racism and social justice. Members passed a resolution acknowledging the police killing of Jaahnavi Kandula, a graduate student from India attending Northeastern University’s Seattle campus.

“Whereas,this injustice is not new; it has been happening for far too long. Families who have lost loved ones to police violence have been denied justice, and harmful cops have evaded accountability,” states the resolution, authored by CFA’s Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Caucus. “Whereas,we believe that no one should be above the law or immune to consequences when they fail to uphold their duty to protect and serve our community.”

CFA members are encouraged to sign a petition calling out the callous disregard for human life.

Members also engaged the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Israel/Palestine and its impact on faculty and students in the CSU and our broader communities. CFA statewide officers crafted a statement supporting academic freedom, particularly for those who engage in research/scholarship in this area of the world.  As an anti-racist and social justice union, we condemn antisemitism and islamophobia and support our campus community members impacted by these forms of discrimination The statement reads: “We seek a world where we have the right to self-determination, dignity, and justice. Life is precious and we honor that. All of these things have been grossly violated in recent days. We support our community members who are re-traumatized, who unjustly are experiencing hate and threats. We will continue to work for rights, respect, social justice and academic freedom.”

Members of CFA’s Palestine, Arab, and Muslim Caucus presented a caucus statement on the colonialism and violence in Gaza. The statement calls for an end to the violence and the violations of human rights, and includes a demand for humanitarian aid and the restoration of electricity and access to clean water and food in the region. It also calls on higher education administrators to support and protect the academic freedom of faculty and students who speak out and protest the actions in Gaza, and support and protect students and faculty whose families and communities are directly impacted.

The statement reflects the experiences and positions of caucus members and is not an endorsed resolution by the Assembly or by CFA officers.

Tim Russ, actor and SAG-AFTRA activist, updated Assembly attendees about the Hollywood actors strike for better job protections. Russ noted the importance of union members sticking together for the righteous fight for rights and respect.

“Everybody seems to be going on strike. It seems to be a universal thing, it’s a universal issue. Clearly, it seems to me that that is what we’re up against – the consolidation at the top of the pyramid. Their whole goal is to make money. Their goal is not to make the rent or take care of someone. Anywhere they can cut their overhead, they will.  That includes us, the worker bees, the people who make the economy work. If you cut from the top for a whole year, you wouldn’t notice it,” Russ said to applause from CFA members. “If you take the worker bees out for three days, the whole thing collapses.”

During the business portion of the Assembly, Dorothy Chen-Maynard, Lisa Kawamura, Cathy Jeppson, Tendai Chitewere, and Jonathan Karpf were elected to the CFA Elections Committee. Theresa Montano was elected to be CFA’s American Association of University Professors Representative South.

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