California Faculty Association moves closer to strike

CFA SFSU

Students and faculty gather to inform about the potential CFA strike. Bill Bray, a communications studies lecturer, suited up in a giant puppet while bringing awareness about a potential California Faculty Association strike. Photo by Nelson Estrada.

As pressure mounts for the California Faculty Association and the California State University to reach a contract agreement, about 30 faculty and students gathered Tuesday at 19th and Holloway avenues to try to bring more attention to the now 23-month-old struggle.

Amid chants calling for a fair contract, picketers distributed fliers with information about their demands to students arriving and departing campus. Many teachers said they hope that a new contract will be put in place before a strike is called, which could impact thousands of students across the 23-campus system.

“This is in solidarity with the presence we have at the Board of Trustees meeting today in Long Beach,” said Georgia Gero-Chen, a lecturer in the English department. “We want to provide some information to people coming and going on campus.”

Tuesday morning, faculty and students from across the system also protested outside of the monthly CSU Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach.

Among those picketing was CFA chapter president Wei Ming Dariotis.

Negotiations between the faculty union, which represents more than 23,000 professors, librarians, lecturers and coaches within the system, and CSU administration have entered into the fact-finding stage.

During this process both sides present their proposals to a neutral third party in hopes of reaching common ground on a new contract.

According to CSU spokesman Erik Fallis, the hope is that an agreement will be reached before the fact-finding section ends, at which time CFA leadership could call a the system-wide strike. The strike was authorized with a 95 percent approval vote last week.

“If the two sides come to an agreement, that would avoid the need for a strike,” he said.

Among the few remaining points of contention are faculty pay, class size limits, academic freedom guarantees and evaluation procedures for contracts for lecturers.

“The chancellor wants no cap on class sizes,” said Phil Klasky, a lecturer in American Indian studies department. “He wants more online classes with hundreds of students and wants to force students to take more classes through the College of Extended Learning.”

At yesterday’s picket, Sheila Tully, SF State CFA vice president, told the group, “our working conditions are students’ learning conditions.”

Several students from the Students for Quality Education group also joined in the hour-long picket and echoed her sentiment.

While the majority of students seem to support the faculty, there hasn’t been as big of a student presence as some would like to see.

“I would like to see more students involved,” said Klasky. “This is about their education. We invite students and their parents to become more involved.”

Madeline Zolezzi, a UC Santa Cruz student who stopped briefly to listen to the speakers and took a flier, commented that it is not only the CSU who is frustrated with higher education funding in California.

“I think it’s pretty necessary. [Faculty] were striking on my campus recently, too,” she noted.

Both sides had returned to the bargaining table last week, but talks broke down Sunday night, according to a CSU press release.

Last week, prior to the breakdown in talks, Fallis said the staging of protests such as the picket Tuesday are “not relevant to the process right now.”

Faculty, however, seem to be ready to move to the next step if necessary. Addressing the crowd at the entrance to the SF State campus, Catherine Powell, CFA SF State chapter vice president, embraced the meaning behind the picket.

“We don’t want to strike, but we’re getting to that point, and we need to let the community know what’s going on,” she said.

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