Faculty union in ongoing salary dispute with CSU system


Jennifer Eagan, CFA president and CSU East Bay professor speaking at a press conference in the University Union, Monday, March 28.

Joel Boland

Since the time this article was written, the CSU and CFA have reached a tentative agreement, possibly averting the upcoming strike. They will hold a joint press phone conference on Friday at 10 a.m. formally announcing their decision. 

With a possible system-wide strike on the horizon, a workable compromise is yet to be found in the pay dispute between the California Faculty Association and the California State University system.

Although the CSU referred to it as a “potential strike” in a campus update, the strike seems all but certain, according to Kevin Wehr, president of the Sacramento chapter of the CFA.

“Chancellor [Timothy] White, if he sees the light, with the stroke of a pen, the dialing of a phone, or the sending of an email, he can avert the strike,” Wehr said in a March 25 interview. “At this point, I’m not optimistic. I don’t know why they would change in the last 16 days when they haven’t changed in the last two years.”

The strike is planned for five days, from April 13-15, 18 and 19.

CSU Chancellor Timothy White, in a statement released the same day as a report from a fact-finding panel, said that the CSU cannot spend money it doesn’t have, claiming the only way to give the CFA the asked-for 5 percent pay increase would be to delay or divert funds from other projects.

“Any attempt to pull back from these commitments would cause significant harm to students, faculty, staff and California,” White said.

According to Elisa Smith, director of News and Communications at Sacramento State, the university has a backlog of $163 million in deferred maintenance projects, including roof replacement, heating, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical needs. Additionally, Smith said, Sac State had to turn away 3,600 students last year after record enrollment levels.

CFA President Jennifer Eagan said the CSU only started claiming that it didn’t have the money once the fact-finding report became public.

“Situations change. The CSU could change its budget,” Eagan said. “It has a positive cash flow. It’s not the case that the CSU is broke.”

White said the CSU would look to state funding for a solution.

“The only way to achieve our shared goals for students, faculty and staff is greater financial investment by the state,” White said in the statement. “I hope to see lawmakers continue to stand with CSU, as they did this past year.”

White was referring to the state granting an additional $97 million in funding to the CSU last year. On Tuesday, March 28, Sac State President Robert Nelsen and a handful of student delegates went to the Capitol to advocate for an additional $101 million in funding for the CSU system.

“Stonewalling on needed and deserved salary increases for faculty will chip away at legislators’ confidence in the system,” said Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins in a November 2015 press release. “Maintaining that confidence is imperative as we fight to bring additional funding to CSU.”

One of the student delegates, Associated Students, Inc. President Melissa Bardo, said that the topic of faculty compensation did come up on Tuesday’s trip to the Capitol.

“The highlight of the discussion was more about the student experience, but [faculty compensation] was talked about,” Bardo said.

According to Eagan, the faculty salary increase lobbied for in the CSU’s talking points on Tuesday was only 2 percent. Eagan said the CSU did the same thing last year when they went to the Capitol advocating for more funding, failing to agree with the CFA on a salary increase before going to the Capitol.

“If Chancellor White was sincere when he says he really wants to pay faculty more but he just can’t, why isn’t he asking for more money for faculty compensation, and why isn’t he putting that into his budget and his ask to the legislature?” Eagan said. “I think we’re seeing the continued undervaluing of faculty by the Chancellor’s Office administration.”