Faculty union discusses strike options,seeks to broaden support among students

Greg Kane

Sacramento State faculty union members said they need support from students and non-union faculty as discussions on an impending strike authorization vote intensified last week.

Though a wide range of suggestions regarding how the union might protest were offered at the California Faculty Association’s Feb. 13 meeting, most members agreed that they need to expand awareness of the faculty’s current contract situation.

Negotiations for a new contract, which are currently in a fact-finding phase, have made little progress since they began 11 months ago.

“The task for hard-core, card-carrying CFA members is to expand our influence into the people who are members that believe in what the CFA is doing but aren’t active,” said CFA Sonoma State chapter President Victor Garlin, who attended the meeting in Mendocino Hall as a guest speaker. “If we don’t succeed in doing that, we’re going to have a real problem.”

Members discussed protest options ranging from using the media to spread the union’s message and collecting student input to more drastic measures, such as holding classes on the Governor’s front lawn or refusing to turn in grades.

The latter tactic, in which professors would give all students incomplete grades until a contract agreement is reached, raised concerns about whether any work action would end up hurting students.

Criminal Justice Professor Maria Alexandrino said students and faculty have a “natural alliance” which could be used to an advantage, but Psychology Professor Joe Morrow argued that a strike isn’t effective if nobody is inconvenienced.

“I think that somewhere along the line we’ll have to face the issue of pissing off some students,” Morrow said.

Junior Dan Comins said he didn’t think any teacher “who’s a real teacher” would refuse to submit grades as a form of protest. Rather than letting students get caught in the middle, faculty should educate them about the issues and include them in any protests the union might have, he said.

“They could maybe rally their students and go to the Chancellor’s Office or the (state) capitol and do a formal protest like that,” Comins said. “That could get more things done.”

No work action is expected until after the fact-finding phase of the negotiations ends in early March, said CFA Sacramento chapter President Jeff Lustig. If no agreement is reached at that time, faculty will vote on whether to authorize the union to call for a strike or some other form of protest.

If Sac State faculty could become organized and begin preparations for a strike now, it could be imposing enough to force Chancellor Charles B. Reed’s hand in the current negotiations, said CFA Sacramento chapter Vice President Jim Chopyak.

“If we have 1,000 people out there protesting Reed, maybe we won’t have a need for a strike,” Chopyak said.