Faculty negotiates for salary

Brett Johnson

Faculty salary, job security and workload were among the issues discussed by the California Faculty Association during its Fall Union Update at Sacramento State Thursday.

The Fall Union Update was held inside the University Union’s Lobby Suite – immediately following the Fall Address of Sac State President Alexander Gonzalez. 20 to 30 members of the faculty attended.

The CFA called the meeting to discuss the current state of contract negotiations, or the collective bargaining agreements. When there is to be a change to their labor relations contract, which decides how something like layoffs can happen, unions must enter into contract negotiations with the California State University system.

Statewide CFA President Lilian Taiz was present for the discussion of contract negotiations, as was Andy Merrifield, president of CFA’s Sonoma State chapter and a member of the bargaining team.

The discussion began with Kevin Wehr, president of Sac State’s chapter of the CFA, delivering an update on an event that transpired over the summer that he felt was especially irritating and protest-worthy.

“In July, the CSU Board of Trustees held a meeting in which they voted to raise the tuition of students by 12 percent,” Wehr said. “Within that same day, the board also voted to raise the salary caps of the top CSU executives.”

Following that, Merrifield, who is soon to be president of the California Faculty Association’s bargaining committee, laid out the contract proposals.

The CFA’s proposal is a 1 percent raise for faculty this year, next year and the year following. Also, there would be a 5 percent general salary increase when the CSU’s operating budget grows to what was projected in the 2008-09 fiscal year.

CSU Chancellor Charles Reed’s counterproposal was to leave the salaries as is – no more, no less.

“We have proposed that we will maintain the current salary of CSU faculty,” said Erik Fallis, CSU spokesman. “Believe me, that is something that we struggle to do given the $650 million cut from the state budget.”

During his speech, Merrifield said it is ridiculous that the CSU has raised salaries of its top executives, but refuse to do so for the CSU’s professors and staff.

“It’s easy for them to say, ‘The budget cuts mean there just isn’t any money for that,’ and ignore our demands,” Merrifield said, “but that’s deceiving, because the amount of faculty has been reduced, and the tuition has been increased to back-fill those budget cuts.”

Fallis said that faculty reductions have been few, especially when considering the amount of state support that has been cut from the CSU.

“We have had minimal layoffs on all levels,” Fallis said. “Layoffs are even more minimal when you talk about tenured faculty – next to zero.”

Besides the discussion of salary changes, other articles discussed in the most recent contract negotiations could affect the workload and job security of faculty.

Wehr said these contract negotiations mean a lot to the future of Sac State students – with the impact being greater than some may realize.

“Faculty working conditions are student learning conditions,” Wehr said. “We are all here to make sure that students are achieving a quality education, and without our rights adhered to, we cannot reach that goal.”

Taiz, the final speaker of the day, made it clear it was entirely the responsibility of faculty to voice their concerns in a manner that the CSU higher-ups will take notice. Taiz said when she is alone in her protest, “all they can hear is crickets,” and the faculty has “…to make more noise.”

The meeting concluded with Taiz turning an ear toward the audience for suggestions on how to rally the faculty of Sac State together in protest. Some of the suggested approaches included the continuation of events like last semester’s March in March and protesting on campus through walkouts.

One audience member jokingly referred to creating a large bonfire as an act of protest.

“Sounds fun,” Taiz said. “However, I’m not sure our insurance would cover that.”

Brett Johnson can be reached at [email protected]