Why I’ll strike: A letter from the CFA chapter president

Twenty-six thousand California State University faculty, including lecturers, counselors, coaches and librarians are poised to strike across all 23 campuses on April 13th if we do not receive a 5 percent salary increase for year two of our contract. The California Faculty Association has been negotiating with CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White on this issue for two years. White refuses to budge from his insulting offer of 2 percent – this from a man who is paid more than President Barack Obama.

I do not want to strike – but I will. CSU faculty earn an abysmally low $45,000 per year on average, largely because two-thirds are non­-tenured, part-time, temporary lecturers. Faculty have not received a significant general salary increase in nearly a decade. We have actually lost money over that time, because a promised 11 percent raise in 2006 was cancelled and a 9.3 perecent furlough pay cut was instituted in 2009. I voted in favor of that furlough – and cutting my own already meager salary – as did the majority of CSU faculty. This was in the hope that the furlough savings would spare cuts to classes and job lay-offs. During those hard times, faculty sacrificed for the sake of our students. This year the $5 billion budget for the CSU has been increased by an additional $216 million. Faculty know that the money is there and that 5 percent is fair and reasonable. We really are not asking for a raise but rather a partial recovery of some of what we have lost.

It also is important to point out that study after study shows that nationwide, the skyrocketing costs of college education are not the result of increasing faculty salaries. Instead, across the country, the numbers of university administrators have ballooned as have their salaries. In the CSU, faculty salaries remained flat over the last decade, while student fees increased by more than 134 percent. Where did that money go? Certainly not to faculty. However, the salaries of CSU campus presidents increased by 36 percent during that same period.

On our campus, faculty face the highest cost of living in the country. We have senior faculty, who have dedicated their entire professional lives to students at SFSU, postponing retirement, fearful that they will not have sufficient income to continue living in the Bay Area. Younger faculty raising families struggle to pay for escalating childcare and housing costs. Many colleagues have second jobs. Because salaries are not competitive, we have trouble recruiting and retaining faculty.

This corporatization of the CSU – high salaries for administrators and low wages for everyone else, is not sustainable. Faculty working conditions are student learning conditions. My decision to strike is not an easy one, but it is necessary in order to pay my bills and provide my students with the quality education that they deserve. I resent the crocodile tears of management worrying about students missing five days of classes. I do not recall any such concern during the year of furloughs when students lost 18 days of classes. Budget decisions are reflections of values. The chancellor needs to re-order his budgetary priorities, pay the 5 percent, and show faculty the respect that we deserve for our talent, hard work, and commitment to public education.

I ask students to support us in this fight. Talk with your parents, friends, and communities about the strike and the importance of fair faculty salaries. For more information about the strike, go to www.calfac.org/sfstate and get involved with Students for Quality Education (SQE) at [email protected]. Faculty, along with staff and students, are the heart and soul of the CSU. Without us, there is no university.

Sheila Tully is the president of the SF State CFA chapter and an anthropology lecturer at SF State