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Dive Brief:

  • California State University faculty began a series of one-day strikes Monday after their union and the nation’s largest four-year public higher education system could not agree on pay and other key issues.
  • Faculty and staff, including coaches and librarians, are stopping work this week on four of Cal State’s 23 universities, one campus per day. They started with Cal Poly Pomona on Monday, followed by San Francisco State University on Tuesday. Cal State Los Angeles and Sacramento State University faculty are due to strike Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
  • The California Faculty Association has demanded a 12% pay bump for the 2023-24 academic year, while the Cal State system has offered 5% increases over each of the next three years. A state negotiator recently recommended the system lift salaries by 7% for the year, a suggestion both sides rejected.

Dive Insight:

Hints of a strike emerged at the start of this academic year, when the association informed the state’s Public Employment Relations Board that it and the system had hit a bargaining impasse. The union represents about 29,000 employees.

That declaration set off a process in which a state representative mediated and suggested contract terms. Those negotiations were recently made public. While both the union and system said they appreciated the state’s work, neither agreed with the suggestion of a 7% salary increase.

“We are overworked and underpaid, and our students are not getting the education they deserve,” Anthony Ratcliff, a Cal State Los Angeles professor and union representative, said in a statement last week

In addition to the 12% raise, the union is seeking new caps on class sizes, gender-inclusive restrooms and lactation rooms in every campus building, which Cal State has said are too expensive to build.

The state negotiator agreed with Cal State’s proposal for it to continue to assess the need for gender-neutral restrooms.

But the state also recommended that the system post information on the location of the nearest gender-inclusive facility and set up a process to report that association members don’t have access to one.

Cal State officials agreed to this, along with the state’s suggestion that the system lengthen paid parental leave from six weeks to eight. The union wants a minimum of one semester or two quarters of paid leave, as well as a floor of 16 weeks for employees on a 12-month contract.

“The CSU remains ready to return to the bargaining table to reach a fair and financially sustainable agreement,” the system said in a statement last week.

The Cal State strikes are part of a labor movement boom which has rocked the higher ed world in recent years. Employees at several colleges have carried out high-profile strikes this year, including graduate workers at Temple University and the University of Michigan. 

In fact, some Cal State employees already held a one-day strike last month — following another impasse between the system and Teamsters Local 2010, which represents more than 1,000 tradespeople like electricians. Cal State leaders said they believe the action wasn’t lawful and still haven’t reached a deal with the organization.

Cal State is bargaining under financial constraints. The system said this year it faced a $1.5 billion deficit, which it tried to help remedy through 6% annual tuition hikes for the next five years. 

But the system has said the new tuition revenue — $840 million more by year five — won’t completely solve its financial woes. The faculty association has argued the system can pay for raises and other academic expenses by drawing on surplus cash.