California Faculty Association continue negotiations with Cal State

State Hornet Staff

After approximately 15 years of growing distrust and disrespect between California State University faculty and management, a system-wide union is demanding to receive salary raises promised more than seven years ago.

In the midst of negotiating a new collective bargaining contract, leading members of the California Faculty Association hope the new chancellor and an improved economy will change the dynamic between faculty and management.

CFA Sacramento State Chapter President Kevin Wehr remains cautiously optimistic about the negotiations and said Chancellor Timothy White’s administration has been a breath of fresh air compared to the preceding regime.

Under former CSU Chancellor Charles Reed, faculty were not contacted to discuss a new contract until after the previous one expired. During negotiations, Wehr said the faculty were not valued and their needs were unnecessarily sacrificed.

“The relationship between the two sides these last 15 years were terrible,” Wehr said. “Former Chancellor Reed set the tone. His tone was one of disrespect and his approach was aggressive. There is a long history of mistrust.”

Not forgotten by the union are the unfulfilled promises made by past CSU management, including three scheduled years of faculty raises from an agreement settled in spring 2007. The floor was pulled out from underneath those negotiations when the recession occurred.

Wehr said management could have chosen to still honor the raises but caused much ill-will when instead they found a loophole stating they do not have enough funding to pay the raises.

“We argued 10 ways until Sunday about ways they could find the money,” Wehr said. “Up until a very small raise that we got last fall, I had not had one since 2008. That’s more than five years. And the cost of living keeps going up.”

With White’s leadership, Wehr said the management team has been more responsive to the needs of the faculty and developed a problem solving attitude. The current contract does not expire until June 30, and yet the two sides have already been meeting for six months every two weeks.

The last two negotiations were in 2006 and 2010 with each taking about two years to complete. This year, Wehr said it is possible to reach an agreement before the contract expires, depending on how radical the changes in the state governor’s budget are.

Wehr said they intend to finish negotiations before the current contract expires and if there is a delay, it will be due to management not faculty.

“We have waged many contract campaigns,” Wehr said. “This union knows how to mobilize and if we need to, we can turn up the heat. We can capture the attention of management in multiple ways.”

About 66 percent of the faculty at Sacramento State identify as a part of the CFA union.

Sac State criminal justice professor Cecil Canton, in a video on the CFA website, stressed the importance of the administration valuing faculty and said a lack of raises indicates no recognition for their work as important, effective or worthy.

“The morale of our colleagues has been eroded because we do not feel that our work is respected,” Canton said.

Canton said the decline in faculty morale can greatly impact the success of students.

Junior transfer student and business major Jeremy Kaderka has had nine different professors but said only two were actually effective. Some of his professors did not possess basic skills needed to command a classroom and Kaderka believes it directly correlates to the lack of money faculty are receiving.

“When you have those people who are obviously not motivated to do a great job because they are getting this mediocre pay, there is no incentive for them to do better,” Kaderka said.

With higher salaries, Kaderka said the job market would be more competitive and faculty would be pressured to do a better job so as not to be replaced.

Wehr said the growth of management throughout the history of Sac State is problematic and if money spent on administration was reduced, more funds could be spent directly on instruction.

During the past 50 years, faculty numbers have grown by 20 to 25 percent while upper management has increased by over 200 percent.

“There’s a lot of people around here that all they do is go to meetings,” Wehr said. “It makes it difficult for me to understand how that advances students through the system.”

When the recession hit, Wehr said the faculty were told to prepare for many cuts and when the economy started to recover, requests for raises were countered with the phrase “just wait”.

“I think the faculty are done waiting and I think it’s our turn,” Wehr said. “Our families have taken it on the chin just like everybody else and now that we are starting to bounce back, it’ time for that to be recognized.”