CFA members reached impasse with CSU management on Monday, August 7, 2023.
Some of our members may be unfamiliar with the next steps, so the Bargaining Team wanted to take the time to explain what impasse means and what comes next. As a note, this is an evergreen document and will be updated over the coming weeks and months.
The California Faculty Association is an anti-racist, social justice union of more than 29,000 tenured, tenure-track, lecturer, counselor, librarian, and coaching faculty at all 23 campuses of the CSU. CFA is the exclusive bargaining representative for all Unit 3 employees in the California State University.
A union contract, or “Collective Bargaining Agreement” (CBA), is the legal document that defines workplace rights, pay, and benefits. The CBA is negotiated between CFA, the sole bargaining representative of Unit 3 faculty, and the CSU.
Our last contract (2022-24) left salary undetermined for this year, so we are re-opening on Article 31 (Salary). In addition to Article 31, we are re-opening to bargain over Articles 20, 23, and 37 (Workload, Leaves of Absence with Pay, and Health and Safety). CSU Management has opened on Article 32 (Benefits) to propose a parking rate increase.
We are bargaining for better salaries, working conditions, and learning spaces; we are bargaining to uplift our most vulnerable faculty and address long-standing racial, gender, and social inequities.
We are bargaining for equity, access, belonging, and honoring all student, faculty, and staff identities, uplifting and embracing all lived experiences.
We are bargaining for what could be if students, faculty, and staff received the investment they deserve and were free from intersectional barriers.
The entire contract expires in June 2024, and we can begin bargaining on all contract articles in late Fall 2023.
Bargaining involves each side making written proposals to each other and responding to the other side’s proposals. Each side presents arguments and evidence in favor of their proposals. They make one draft after another until they reach a version that both sides can agree upon. If an agreement is not made, the union or the employer can declare an impasse.
California’s Higher Education Employment Relations Act (HEERA) outlines the many steps by which public higher education employees and employers reach agreement to bargain a contract.
According to the Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act (HEERA) of 1979, impasse means that “the parties have reached a point in meeting and conferring at which their differences in positions are such that further meetings would be futile” (Govt. Code sec. 3562(j)). If CFA and the CSU cannot reach an agreement after bargaining in good faith, HEERA allows one or both sides to declare impasse and request to go to the next statutory stage of bargaining, which is mediation. To determine if an impasse exists, Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) will take into account several factors: (1) the number and length of negotiating sessions and the period of time over which these sessions occurred; (2) the extent to which the parties presented and discussed counter proposals; (3) the extent to which the parties reached tentative agreements on negotiated issues; and (4) the extent of issues that remain unresolved.
Once Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) determines impasse, both CFA and the CSU are obligated to participate in good faith mediation, and, if ordered by the mediator, to proceed through fact-finding. The State Mediation and Conciliation Service assigns a mediator to assist both parties to reach a voluntary resolution on their disagreements. The mediator will meet individually and collectively with CFA and CSU representatives. If or when the mediator concludes that mediation cannot produce a settlement, they then certify the dispute for the next step, which is fact-finding.
In fact-finding, a three-person panel (made up of one person selected by the union, one person selected by the employer, and a neutral third party to which both sides agree) listens to both sides’ presentations.
The panel issues a majority report (written by one side and the neutral third party). The report states findings and recommends a resolution. After a 10-day cooling off period, the report is shared publicly. The report is non-binding; rather it is meant to exert the power of public opinion on the sides to reach agreement.
At that point, if the parties cannot reach an agreement, management can impose its “last, best, and final offer” on the faculty. At the same time, our “no-strike” clause is suspended, and the faculty can engage in work actions up to and including the withholding of our labor—in other words, a strike.
There is no set timeline for this process. At any point in this process, the sides could reach an agreement. If the process goes all the way to “imposition” by management, it could take several months.
A strike is one of the most powerful tools we have to win a good contract. It is also a tool that CFA leaders and members take seriously. A strike can be disruptive to everyone in the CSU community. If a strike takes place, it means that CSU management will not agree to working conditions that are fair to all Unit 3 employees.
A strike is a work stoppage caused by the mass refusal of employees to work over a set of grievances.
It is important to know that a strike is protected, and you cannot be disciplined for striking, when the following three conditions have been met:
- Bargaining has been completed.
- CFA members have called a strike and given notice of the strike to the CSU.
- CFA members have provided notice of the strike to the CSU.
A strike can take many forms; if necessary, it can happen on one, some, or every CSU campus. For example, when UC graduate students recently went on strike, they did so on every UC campus. CFA has in the past also planned rolling strikes, which would mean campuses or groups of campuses take strike action in turns.
For those faculty that have gone through a strike or possible strike do look out for colleagues who are experiencing this for the first time. We all do better when we are all together.
We will not engage in concerted action (up to and including strike) until we are legally permitted to do so at the conclusion of the statutory process. However, knowing the will of our membership now ensures that we are well prepared to take whatever steps are necessary to fight for our demands.
In order to be ready to strike, we will hold a strike vote when we are near to end of the statutory process without an agreement or after impasse is declared.
The timing of a strike depends on progress through the process established by HEERA. If mediation gives way to factfinding, and factfinding ends without a settlement, at that point, we can go on strike.
The union does not maintain a strike fund. If we go on strike, it will likely be for a short duration, and management would be within their rights to withhold pay for days not worked. In the past, this has not happened.
We cannot go on strike until the parties have completed a statutory process set out in HEERA. This includes bargaining in good faith, a declaration of impasse, mandatory third-party mediation, and a fact-finding panel led by a neutral chair.
Yes, lecturer faculty and assistant professors can go on strike as can all members of Unit 3. If union members authorize a strike, it will be legal and participation by every faculty member would be protected. It is a violation of state law for management to discipline an employee for exercising their right to participate in a lawful job action such as a strike. If you find yourself feeling nervous, know that we are stronger together, and our collective solidarity Is what protects us.
The CFA Bargaining Team negotiates a Tentative Agreement for our new faculty contract. The CFA Board of Directors also makes a recommendation and then presents the agreement to CFA members for a ratification vote.
Make sure you and your colleagues sign up to receive bargaining updates. Anyone who wants to support CFA members during bargaining should subscribe – including students, staff, alums, elected leaders, and allies – to learn about upcoming actions and other ways to join in and help us win a better, safer, stronger CSU.