California Faculty Association Holds 1-Day Strike at San Francisco State

Faculty across the California State University (CSU) system's 23 campuses want increased pay, a higher salary floor, gender-neutral bathrooms, and paid parental leave. They're ready to expand their strike, potentially impacting nearly 460,000 students.
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Published on December 7, 2023
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  • Faculty at San Francisco State University went on a one-day strike in support of workers' demands.
  • Demands include fair pay, increasing the salary floor, and more gender-neutral bathrooms and lactation spaces in campus buildings.
  • Four campuses across the CSU are holding one-day strikes, with the potential for a systemwide strike in January.

The California Faculty Association (CFA) held a one-day strike at San Francisco State University, one of four separate one-day strikes planned across the country's largest university system.

CFA represents 29,000 professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors, and coaches across the California State University (CSU) system's 23 campuses, which enroll some 460,000 students. It is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU Local 1983) and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

Members voted nearly 95% in favor of empowering their board of directors to call a strike, which was planned at four separate CSU campuses, including California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; California State University, Los Angeles; and Sacramento State University.

Pay raises are a major issue for faculty, and members are demanding 12% pay raises for all faculty. They also want the salary floor to be raised for the lowest-paid faculty.

Our members have lost a lot relative to inflation, Brad Erickson, a lecturer in the School of Liberal Studies at San Francisco State and CFA chapter president, told BestColleges while he picketed at the intersection of 19th and Holloway avenues.

Since our last contract, inflation is up 18%, but our pay only went up 7%. We are asking for 12% across the board to break even. Our members' cost of childcare, food, rent, and medical expenses have gone up by double digits, so that's why we need a pay raise.

Erickson said it is an absolute demand that the salary floor for the lowest-paid faculty be raised by $10,000, from $54,000 to $64,000 — and they are ready to strike as long as it takes.

CSU is silent that these faculty are earning less than counterparts at the University of California, California Community Colleges, and public schools. It's non-negotiable, he said.

Ali Kashani is a faculty member in the philosophy department at San Francisco State. He told BestColleges that fair pay is essential to the university's success.

Inflation is very high, and living in the Bay Area is expensive. [The CSU] has the money, but they prioritize it to pay the administration and presidents, he said from the picket line.

We are dedicated educators trying to work to educate our students. We have 500,000 students across 23 campuses. We are the largest system in the nation and produce the workforce for California and beyond.

Other demands include gender-inclusive restrooms and lactation stations in academic buildings and a full semester of parental leave for faculty.

If there is any magic in the university, it's in the classroom, Erickson said. We can do fine without high-paid administration, but we can't do anything without faculty. If [administration] took a month off, we wouldn't even notice. But one day [with faculty] out of the classroom, people are noticing.

CSU Students React to Faculty Strike, Demands

Faculty at the pre-selected campuses joined the picket line during their assigned days, canceling class and refusing to complete normal work tasks such as grading, answering emails, and any other faculty work until the strike concludes.

As part of CFA, coaches, counselors, librarians, faculty at satellite campuses, and department chairs also withhold labor during the strike.

In San Francisco, between 19th and Holloway avenues Tuesday, many students joined faculty on the picket line.

Ali Noorzad, a fourth-year history student and organizer with the Young Democratic Socialists of America, spoke to the rally crowd about how the faculty at San Francisco State taught him to fall in love with learning.

It was professors ... that instilled a love in me for learning and filled me with the love for this school that I never expected to have. That is why, as students, we're all here, and we're pissed because we refuse to allow the people that have changed our lives, that have made us love this school, to be treated like garbage by administrators who could not give less of a damn about us students.

Noorzad emphasized that students stand with faculty amid potential layoffs that are expected to impact 300 faculty positions at the university and lead to around 600 courses being cut, increasing class sizes and making it more difficult for students to meet graduation requirements.

CSU management finds it easier and easier to lay [faculty] off than to ask their bosses for more funding. I know that when my faculty are going on strike, it's not because you guys hate this school. It's because you guys love this school, he said. As students, we are not just letting you go out and fight that fight on your own.

Students are also showing their support for CFA after the union opposed tuition hikes, which will increase tuition by 6% each year for five academic years.

Violet Street, a third-year public health student and organizer with Students for Quality Education, a student advocacy group affiliated with CFA, said that she supports CFA's demands to raise pay, stop faculty cuts, and reverse the student tuition hike.

It's worth it to cut class for a day to support faculty, to make sure they are here, she said. I will continue to cut classes until the class environment and campus quality improves. CSU is messing up our campuses, and CFA is trying to improve them, beyond just their pay.

Other CSU-affiliated unions — including UAW 4123, which represents academic student workers across the CSU, and the Teamsters Local 2010, which is also in the middle of contract negotiations with the CSU administration — also showed up to support the faculty union.

Kamia Gutierrez, a second-year master's student studying cinema and a graduate assistant, is a member of UAW 4123.

To show solidarity with faculty, as someone who is also a part of a different union, it is very important for students to show support. For faculty to get their demands, it’s important for others to show their support, she said.

UAW 4123 recently reached an agreement with the CSU just as their contract was set to expire. Gutierrez said the university attempted to add a clause to the contract restricting solidarity strikes, which would have prohibited academic student workers from supporting other unions, including CFA, going on strike.

CSU knows there is strength in numbers, and they know other unions will want to show their support. The fact that they tried to legally stop us shows how scared they are of this power we have, she said.

More Faculty Strikes Planned

Erickson says the one-day strikes are a taste of what's to come if a contract is not reached by winter break.

If management keeps jacking around and stonewalling, we have the whole winter break to prepare for a full-on systemwide strike in January. We need 12%, raise the floor, or we shut the whole system down.

Charles Toombs, CFA president and professor of Africana studies at San Diego State University, told the rally crowd that the union is prepared to continue fighting into the spring semester.

The CSU, they're not gonna give [our demands] to us unless we ... fight back. If they don't get the message this week, we're gonna give them a louder and larger message in January.