California Faculty Association continues bargaining for a new contract

Jonathan Ayestas

Salary and education issues between California State University and the California Faculty Association are improving for the first time since 2007.

While CFA members find working with Chancellor Timothy White to be refreshing, they are still “cautiously optimistic,” according to Sacramento California Faculty Association President Kevin Wehr

“The shift in attitude and behavior with the new chancellor is refreshing, but given the history, we’re still waiting to exhale,” Wehr said.

CSU Director of Public Affairs Mike Uhlenkamp said meetings will take place throughout the course of the year to negotiate, with having the possibility of going on indefinitely until the negotiation contract ends June 30.

“It’s impossible to say how long this will take,” Uhlenkamp said. “We are just starting to sit down at the table negotiating with CFA.”

CFA Secretary Winston Lancaster said one of the issues that will be discussed during negotiations includes salary, which benefitted faculty members with future salary increases in 2007 before the recession hit.

“When the economy collapsed in 2008, it gave the (former) chancellor, (Charles Reed) the power to essentially deny salary increases that were negotiated in the contract,” Lancaster said.

Uhlenkamp said without money, it is not that easy to stay within contract agreements.

“In times when there is the proper level of funding for the CSU, then negotiations are a little bit easier, because the funding makes it available so we can give salary increases,” Uhlenkamp said. “When we receive massive cuts, it makes it impossible to give salary increases.”

Online and Extended Education, or the College of Continuing Education, is another topic being discussed.

Students taking summer or winter classes pay more for units than during fall and spring. Wehr said students pay $285 for a standard undergraduate course unit, plus the Well fees, which totals to $325. A standard 3 unit class will cost approximately $1000.

Wehr said CFA cannot control fees for students in its contract, but can express concerns about the transition of courses from the standard semester to the summer.

Wehr said education quality is being addressed at negotiations, and hiring might be one way to answer the issue. Another method he mentioned, was limiting the amount of students permitted in each course.

“The only way to address imbalances of student-teacher ratio is to hire more teachers or get rid of more students,” Lancaster said. “We don’t want to do the latter.”

Lancaster said there is a problem with salary inversion, an issue where newer faculty are being paid more than people who have been hired for a longer time.

“There are already agreements to stress salary inversion,” Lancaster said. “But they’re not being honored across all campuses.”

At the rate negotiations are going, Wehr hopes bargaining on current issues will be finished by the deadline.

“There’s always an ebb-and-flow to the bargaining process,” Wehr said. “Things do tend to move more quickly toward the end. Things are moving at a decent pace. That’s one of the reasons why I’m hopeful.”

If an agreement is not made by June 30, impasse becomes the next step, which involves a third party mediating to find a solution. If the third party has exhausted all other possibilities, another neutral third party attempts to come up with another solution.

“If a fight arises, we’ll be ready for it because we’ve seen plenty of that over the last 10 years,” Wehr said.

Faculty members rely on collective bargaining to address issues that are effecting the quality of education for students.

“The faculty are the backbone of the university,” Lancaster said. “ The faculty are the ones who do the work teaching students with the support of the technical and secretarial staff.”