CSU faculty association to hold vote on possible strike

Alex Slavas

The California Faculty Association plans to hold a vote later this semester on whether a strike should be held if a contract agreement cannot be settled with the California State University system.

The strike vote will be held between April 16 and April 27 on all state university campuses. If faculty vote results indicate majority support for the strike, the CFA’s board of directors will move forward in planning the strike.

For 18 months, the CFA and the CSU system have been trying to negotiate a fair new contract – a process still in progress.

CSU spokesperson Erik Fallis said he feels it is too early in the process to be planning such actions.

“It is really disappointing that the union would start doing things like scheduling strike votes,” Fallis said.

Fallis said he feels the decision to hold a strike vote is premature because the outcome of the process is still indefinite.

“Even if they did authorize a vote, they can’t legally strike until we get to the end of successor contract,” Fallis said. “For them to say we’re going to schedule votes now before the process is over is premature (and) doesn’t show that they are trying to work toward an agreement.”

The negotiation process is composed of several stages. If the two sides cannot settle on an agreement during the bargaining process, an impasse is certified by the state and a mediator is appointed. Fact-finding and final impasse take place after the appointment. If one side is still in opposition, concerted action can then occur.

Fallis said the CSU is in the process of mediation – a stage where a third-party works with both sides in an attempt to reach an agreement.

Kevin Wehr, Sacramento State’s CFA chapter president, said he feels although there are stages both the CSU administration and the faculty union have yet to undergo, it is important to begin planning promptly.

“It is not too early in the process,” he said. “If we don’t settle a contract in mediation, we will have to move forward to fact-finding … where a determination is made as to who is right. Even if they say the CFA is right, the chancellor can intervene and have the final say.”

Wehr said although the circumstances make holding a strike illegal at this time, it is better to start planning prior to concerted actions becoming legal.

“If we are faced with the possibility of going on strike, we need to be ready when it happens,” Wehr said.

Wehr said he has initiated preparations for the strike by informing faculty members.

“My goal is to have contact with every single member on campus to see what kinds of concerns and issues they might have … to gauge the level of support,” he said.

Wehr said he is informing faculty by email, visiting offices as well as department meetings to spread awareness of the strike vote.

Fallis said the CSU administration is not making any plans after hearing the news of the strike vote.

“In the same sense that the faculty scheduling a vote is premature, it is premature for us to start making definitive plans,” he said. “It is very possible that this will go in a different direction.”

Fallis said more progress has been made in the current mediation phase than any other stage thus far.

“We continue to work in good faith during mediation as we have been throughout the bargaining process,” he said.

Junior economics major Tyler Nelson said he believes the potential strike may be a delicate situation, but the outcome may outweigh the risk.

“In order to benefit a situation, you have to hurt it first,” Nelson said.

He said he feels a strike may be inconvenient for students, but the impact it may have on producing quality education will help in the long run.

“It is a bold but smart move,” Nelson said. “Overall it is for the greater good for the students. And without students there is no school.”

He also said a strike will elevate the issue’s awareness among students – provoking a reaction by the CSU system.

“I think the university would react because complaints are coming from both students and teachers,” he said.

Wehr said he does not know of any faculty member who wishes to go on strike.

“We feel that we will (go on strike) if we have to,” he said. “We are being forced to do so by the chancellor’s intransigence.”

Alex Slavas can be reached at [email protected].