California State Faculty Association members voted to authorize a strike if negotiations with the California State University system fail. The vote was announced Wednesday at San Jose State.
The Association represents 26,000 employees on 23 California State University campuses. The vote was 94.4 percent in favor of authorizing a strike.
"No one takes a strike vote lightly," says CFA President Jennifer Eagan.
As Eagan wrote the vote percentage on a large version of the actual ballot, CSU faculty members in the room tore off jackets and other coverings to reveal red t-shirts bearing the slogan "I Don’t Want to Strike But I Will."
Contract negotiations between the CFA and CSU have reached an impasse.
The Association wants a 5 percent general salary increase for all faculty.
Cal State University has offered a 2 percent increase.
"The result of the California Faculty Association (CFA) strike vote is not unexpected," said Toni Molle, with The California State University Office of the Chancellor. "Similar authorizations were requested and approved by CFA members in prior CSU/CFA negotiations, and the strike authorization vote has now become a routine part of CFA’s post-impasse negotiation strategy."
Molle says the approval of the strike vote "gives CFA’s leadership the authority to initiate a strike or other concerted activities in the event that the parties do not reach an agreement at the conclusion of the statutory impasse procedure."
She says the CSU remains "committed to the collective bargaining process and reaching a negotiated agreement with the CFA."
Fact-Finding Meetings Next Step In Negotiations
A neutral third-party is present during the fact-finding process and issues a report recommending a path to settlement. After each side studies the report, if a settlement isn't reached, the CSU Chancellor can make another offer. After that, the faculty has the right to strike.
The CFA says if there were a strike, the earliest it would happen would be January 2016.
The salary talks started in May 2014.
"It's true, we're separated by 3 percent," says Kevin Wehr, chair of the CFA bargaining team and a sociology professor at Sacramento State. "We're asking for 5 percent for everybody, the Chancellor has offered 2 percent, which is a figure that doesn't even keep up with inflation for faculty and doesn't even begin to dig us out of the hole that faculty has suffered the last 10 years. It is unacceptable."
Molle with the CSU Chancellor's Office says it's "not as simple as just 3 percent."
"The CSU has to live within our means," says Molle. "The gap is $68.9 million and when you add-in 'me-too' clauses for the other bargaining groups, that gap grows to $108 million."
Faculty Association members had two options during the vote that took place between October 19 and October 28: To authorize the CFA Board of Directors to call a strike if contract negotiations failed; Or, not to give strike authorization to the board and accept the 2 percent salary increase offered by the CSU.