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CFA responds to CSU Administration bargaining update

On August 27, the CSU Chancellor’s Office released a report providing the administration’s position on contract negotiations with the California Faculty Association.

In several ways, that administrative report was a welcome change from our bargaining experience under previous chancellors. It was refreshing, for instance, to hear acknowledgment of the value of CSU faculty and the hardships faculty and other employee groups have suffered since the recession. And it has been heartening for the CFA bargaining team to engage in a more professional bargaining process that has led to tentative agreements on several issues.

However, the ultimate measure of success in negotiations—mutual agreement for a full successor contract—eludes us. For that to be achieved, salary and workload, two issues whose importance to faculty can hardly be overstated, must still be resolved.

We believe CFA’s position on these issues is quite reasonable even in our current budget climate. We also believe that addressing these issues in a meaningful way is important not only for the well-being of faculty, but also for the health of the CSU. We have worked hard at the table to communicate to the administration’s team both why our proposals are needed and how they can be accommodated.

Salary Differences

As we have communicated to the administration’s bargaining team, we have no serious disagreement with the CSU’s proposal on faculty salary for the first year of the contract.

However, the fact that they omitted other aspects of their salary proposal in their August 27 update is extremely troublesome. To state the obvious, we are not bargaining for just one year’s salary. Years 2 and 3 are equally important. Furthermore, as we all know, what we agree to this year will shape the income and economic well-being of faculty for years to come.

The most serious shortcoming of the CSU’s salary proposal is the lack of Service Salary Increases (SSIs) in years 2 and 3 of the contract.

Including SSIs (or a comparable mechanism) in years 2 and 3 is critical for several reasons:

  • Without SSIs, the vast majority of faculty would receive a mere 1.70% General Salary Increase (GSI) in 2015-16 and a 1.78% GSI in 2016-17 under the administration’s proposal. It is important to note that since 2008 faculty have received GSIs totaling less than 1.4%. This is simply inadequate.
  • As we have demonstrated to the administration’s bargaining team, lack of SSIs for so many years has produced many of the problems we are now experiencing and struggling to solve in these negotiations. Because new hires have been brought on at higher salaries and more experienced faculty have not progressed through the salary ranges, many senior faculty continue to suffer under an “experience penalty” that must be addressed. Consistent application of SSIs over time would go a long way toward solving these problems with inversion—and toward preventing them in the future.
  • Lack of SSIs in the past has also meant that women and faculty of color have suffered a disproportionate economic hardship. In fact, lack of SSIs has created a deplorable situation that we hope all can agree must be fixed: the CSU has been hiring more women and faculty of color in recent years, but the salary gap between these groups and their white male peers is not closing.

Agreement to include SSIs in all years of the contract would go a long way toward solving these serious problems and preventing more in the future.

The administration’s proposal for an “equity” program is also problematic. Giving campus administrators nearly total discretion to adjust individual faculty’s earnings is not an acceptable way to deal with these or other salary problems. For one thing, many of the salary problems we are trying to correct in this contract are the direct result of campus administrative discretion. Too many local administrators have used their discretion to make “low-ball” offers that are simply an embarrassment and punish faculty for their entire careers.

For example, 878 Lecturer faculty (173 at one campus alone)—many of whom have experience and hold terminal degrees—have been repeatedly hired to teach at a shocking salary of between $3,000 and $3,259 per month. Furthermore, too many campus presidents have failed to use their discretionary power to correct salary inequities when faculty are promoted. And none—not one single campus president—has implemented the equity program that CFA and the CSU mutually agreed to in the last contract.

Needless to say, we do not see a proposal for more administrative discretion as an adequate solution for the many salary problems faculty face.

Workload

As the administration’s update stated, workload is another huge unresolved issue, one that affects the vast majority of faculty members. Class sizes have increased dramatically for many faculty; advising responsibilities have grown for others due to the failure to hire permanent faculty; mentoring and evaluation obligations have mushroomed with the need to support increasing numbers of temporary faculty. The list goes on and on.

Much has changed about faculty workload over the decades. Yet this issue has not been touched on in bargaining for nearly 20 years.

Workload must be addressed in this contract in a way that begins to reverse a trend now threatening educational quality and the experiences of CSU students.

As we have emphasized to the administration’s bargaining team, bargaining about faculty workload is fundamentally bargaining about faculty time. If faculty have too many students in a class, students and educational quality pay the price. If faculty members have too many students to advise carefully, students and students’ success suffer.

With this approach to workload in mind, CFA made proposals for three pools of money that would begin to reverse the trend in ways that are congruent with the Chancellor’s goals for student success. We

believe the size of this commitment ($4 million each for pools to address excessive loads in teaching, service, and research) for a group of 23,000 employees is modest and achievable.

Our proposal also suggested that the method for determining who gets workload help should use the proven method of shared governance for policies/procedures. As with elements of salary, management’s proposal relied on managerial discretion. Since presidential discretion has led to many of the problems, as outlined above, our proposal reflects a healthier strategy moving forward.

Because the administration’s bargaining team did not address workload at all until our last bargaining sessions on August 18 and 19, we believe we are just beginning to bargain on this vital issue. It appears that we are not at odds on the general approach to workload and faculty time for student success; but we do believe the administration’s monetary commitment to this vital area needs to be increased and the role of faculty governance expanded.

The Road to Settlement

Getting a settlement in a reasonable timeframe will require doing things differently than we have done in recent years. Given the struggles of the past, we hope there is mutual openness to this approach.

While we acknowledge and appreciate the Chancellor’s commitment to spend new money he has been allocated from the state (and to do a small reallocation), some old and irrational costing practices from previous administrations are unnecessarily standing in the way of agreement.

For instance, as has happened for years, SSIs remain a stumbling block; and as in the past, the sticking point, from the administration’s view, is cost. We propose taking the approach to these raises used in bargaining with state employees. Those employees get step increases every year and have throughout the recession. Furthermore, step increases for other state employees are never “charged against the salary package,” as the CSU administration demands. In other areas of state government, the assumption is that those raises are to be absorbed by the various divisions and budgeted as a cost of doing business.

We think this is a rational model and one worth instituting. It would solve many salary problems that have grown since the attack on SSIs began, and it would do wonders for the overall bargaining relationship between the faculty and the Chancellor’s office.

We also firmly believe that the cost of fixing problems should land where the problems were created. For instance, “low-balling” is not a system wide problem but a regular practice on some campuses. Local campus administrations responsible for these practices should pay the cost of remedying those problems—not the CSU faculty.

And finally, everyone knows that the new money coming from the state is not the only money that could be used for faculty salaries, faculty workload, or any other issue in the system. On every campus, there are funds that could be used to supplement student success initiatives and provide increased faculty time for this program, for instance. We agree with the administration’s update on this point: it is all about goals and priorities.

Our goal is a contract that provides faculty working conditions which foster excellent student learning conditions. We believe the CSU administration has the resources to improve their offer and help us bargain a contract that furthers this goal.

It is, indeed, all about priorities.

Commands