California State University Faculty Vote to Authorize a Strike

California Faculty Association members voted 95% in favor of authorizing a strike.
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Published on November 7, 2023
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  • Faculty members across California State University's 23-campus system held a strike authorization vote from Oct. 21-27.
  • The vote passed with nearly 95% approval.
  • Workers' demands include increased pay and decreased workloads.

Faculty instructors across the California State University (CSU) system have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike over demands that include increased pay and manageable workloads.

California Faculty Association (CFA) members voted nearly 95% in favor of empowering their board of directors to call a strike. While there is not an impending strike, the vote gives union leadership the approval necessary to call a strike when legally allowed to do so.

"We are willing to withhold our labor if CSU management continues to say no to investing their money where it matters — the people who are directly responsible for student learning and success," Charles Toombs, CFA president and San Diego State professor, said in a press release.

CFA represents 29,000 professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors, and coaches across the CSU system's 23 campuses. The organization is affiliated with Service Employees International Union (SEIU Local 1983) and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

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.

Other demands include set counselor-to-student staffing ratios, improved campus safety, and expanded paid parental leave.

To legally call a strike, CFA must first wait for an independent factfinder to release a report containing nonbinding recommendations on a settlement. Upon release of the report, the bargaining team and the CSU will have a 10-day "silent period" to review the report before it's made public.

If this process does not end in an agreement, the "statutory" process ends, and CFA will have the legal right to strike.

The authorization vote comes at a time when the CSU is facing budget issues and recently voted to raise tuition for students, in part to cover the system's reported $1.5 billion funding gap between how much the system brings in and how much it spends.

CFA claims that the CSU has been "hoarding billions of dollars in reserves" instead of using the money they have to invest in faculty and staff.

"Their investment in administrative personnel is increasing while their budgets for instructional support continue to shrink, despite year after year of the CSU bringing in more money than it spends. Budgets are moral documents, and our members are holding CSU management accountable," the CFA release reads.

How Would a Strike Impact Students?

There are multiple ways faculty may go on strike if one is called, including a systemwide strike or one campus at a time, according to CFA.

The union has never entered a systemwide strike before, although members overwhelmingly voted for strike authorization in 2016 and were preparing to go on strike before a last-minute deal was reached.

Additionally, in 2011, two CSU campuses — East Bay and Dominguez Hills — fully shut down and went on strike for a day.

If a systemwide strike is called, members would not teach courses and refrain from any normal work completed during the strike. This includes grading, answering emails, and any other faculty work.

As part of CFA, coaches and counselors would withhold labor in the event of a strike, causing sports practices, athletic events, and counseling work to be temporarily suspended.