CSU Employment Union picket for fair pay and equal work rights

Kaylee Lao, 6, holds a picket sign in protest of the “Salary Union Rights Movement,” in San Franciso on Monday October 9, 2017. (Kayleen Fonte/ Golden Gate Xpress)

CSU Employees Union (CSUEU) marched in front of the Administration building this morning, chanting for fair pay and equal working conditions for CSU classified staff.

Across 23 campuses, there are 16,000 classified staff employed by the CSU. Classified staff are the nuts and bolts to the CSU machine which include: Health center professionals, I/T technical staff, clerical staff, custodians and grounds workers.

The average CSU classified staff employee makes approximately 10 percent less than they would in the marketplace, according to CSUEU’s recent press release.

WE ARE THE UNION,” Nick Wirz, CSUEU labor representative preached through his megaphone.

The picket circle of about 100 union members, staff and SF State students chanted in sync, “THE MIGHTY, MIGHTY UNION.”

FIGHTING FOR THE STUDENTS,” Wirz chanted back.

CSUEU’S Labor Representative, Nick Wirz, leads a picket protest in front of the San Francisco State University’s Administartaion building in San Francisco on Monday October 9, 2017. (Kayleen Fonte/ Golden Gate Xpress)

Pay raise negotiations for non-administrative CSU employees have been in the works for 10 months but have been stalled, yet faculty received a 2.5 percent pay increase.

“We’re in the tenth month and we have been negotiating with [the CSU] over a contract and what’s happening is they’re coming back with a very low raise,” said Neil Jacklin, instructional support technician of 25 years at CSU Stanislaus who has served as Vice President for organizing at CSUEU for the last six years. “They came back with only a 1 percent raise for 2,200 people out of 16,000.”

The picketing was ignited by a recent raise given to CSU Administration and faculty which was decided in far less time than for classified staff who still hang in the balance.

“Just the other day they voted themselves, the administration and all of the MVPs, a two-and-a-half percent raise,” Jacklin said. “It only took the Board of Trustees about 20 minutes to approve the 2.5 percent salary increase for administration. Then the CFA (California Faculty Association) was negotiating for their next extension on their contract and they did it in four days and they got four-and-a-half percent.”

Not only is the union bargaining for fair pay, but also for worker’s rights, including asking for a raise.

“Currently they have proposed to take away employee’s right to ask for [a raise],” said Pat Gantt, a 36-year CSU employee who works at Chico State University and president of CSUEU who has been with the union for 15 years. “They want to remove that option, which we think erodes some employee’s rights and opportunities to have a check and balance to the system.”

Union workers and CSU employees were not alone in their protesting as SF State students joined in parading with posters.

“I am in this picket line to help the union fight for its rights,” Nicholas Moore, philosophy major, said. “I’ve heard a few complaints from staff that college administration seems to be less worried about day-to-day operations for the school and helping the students than their own salaries.”

Enrollment has reached new highs among the CSUs, particularly at SF State, with nearly 30,000 students. Furloughs have become more common for classified staff since the Great Recession. For the following three years, salaries were stagnant and have yet to rebound nearly ten years later.

“I’m here because I support the staff of San Francisco State and all the CSUs because I see the way my supervisor’s benefits are not really applied to them,” said Carina Silva, health education major who works for the Metro College Success Program at SF State. “It’s really unfair how administration can vote to raise 2.5 percent for themselves instead of asking everyone else. I see that different power structure and it sucks. These are the employees that are helping the students that are actually caring about the students, but then you see admin in there sitting in their office all day doing nothing, but they get higher wages than our staff.”

The decision on who receives a raise climbs up to the CSU Board of Trustees and CSU Chancellor, Timothy White. To gain perspective, White has an annual salary of $400,545.76. With the 2.5 percent raise approved within a matter of minutes, he received and extra $10,013 annually.

The highest paid custodian in the CSU system is compensated $49,875.68 annually with the lowest in the mid to low $20,000 range. If the highest paid custodian were to receive a 2.5 percent raise it would be an additional $1,246 annually.

While it is recognized that there are dozens of custodians at SF State and hundreds throughout the CSU system and there is only one Chancellor, “management growth outpaced that of staff both in rate of pay and number of positions,” according to the California State Auditor. The CSUEU has filed charges against the CSU to make up for salary inequalities and prolonged salary stagnation for all of its workers, including those who keep SF State the campus it is today.

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