Cal State system, faculty union reach tentative agreement

AP News
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Posted: Apr 07, 2016 9:01 PM

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — An unprecedented five-day strike by California State University professors was postponed indefinitely on Thursday as the 23-campus system and its faculty union announced they had reached a tentative deal in a monthslong salary dispute.

The California Faculty Association and Cal State officials said in a joint announcement Thursday that details of the agreement would not be disclosed until Friday. But they said a proposed contract would be presented to union members for a vote in the weeks ahead.

The faculty association, which represents 26,000 professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches, had scheduled a system-wide strike for April 13-15 and April 18-19 to protest the size of the pay increases the university planned to give its members this year.

Cal State Northridge Assistant Professor Adam Swenson, who teaches philosophy and serves as president of the campus Faculty Senate, said news of the provisional agreement brought relief. With the walkout scheduled to start within days, many instructors were worried about canceling classes and their students getting behind, Swenson said.

"I've talked to so many people who are sick to their stomachs at the idea of going on strike, but they also understand this is a collective bargaining environment," he said. "We all have our fingers crossed this turns out to be tenable."

Union members currently are in the second-year of a three-year contract that included across-the-board pay raises of 3 percent for the 2014-15 school year. Under that contract, salaries for subsequent years had to be renegotiated.

The faculty association sought a 5 percent salary increase for 2015-16 along with a 2.7 percent pay bump based on years of service. The university offered raises of 2 percent — the same increase it had given other employees.

The average salary for full-time faculty at CSU campuses varies by academic rank, with full professors earning an average of $96,660 as of last fall, assistant professors earning an average of $73,888 and lecturers making $58,265, according to the university.

Chancellor Timothy White, who leads the system, had maintained that after several years of state budget cuts the university did not have the $69 million it would cost to provide the 5 percent raises demanded by the faculty union.

An independent fact-finding panel assembled after the two sides reached a negotiating impasse sided with the union, however. The panel issued a report 10 days ago stating that faculty pay had not kept pace and that giving the requested raises was "in the interest of students, who need caring faculty, and certainly in the public interest as our country needs a well-educated population."

CSU is the nation's largest public university system, with about 460,000 students. It has not been subject to a full faculty strike since system-wide collective bargaining began in the early 1980s.

Union members authorized strikes in 2007, 2011 and 2012. Strikes were averted in 2007 and 2012 when negotiators for the administration and the union reached settlements. A one-day walkout was staged at two campuses in 2011.