Cal State union considers striking; seeks 5 percent raise

CSU-SystemThe 25,000 members of the California State University faculty union will cast ballots in a strike-authorization vote beginning Monday. It is the fourth time the union and university have battled over wages in eight years.

The union seeks a 5 percent raise across the board for its members, which include teachers, librarians and counselors.

The university system is offering a 2 percent increase and says it has already boosted faculty pay by $65.5 million over the past two years.

The system’s senior faculty members were paid an average of $96,000 per academic year as of April, according to the last figures available from Cal State.

Divided on Contracting

While the issue is money, lobbying records show a divide on several other issues, most recently the use of contract employees.

Senate Bill 669 introduced earlier this year by Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, aimed at refining the parameters of contract hiring. The university opposed the measure while the union backed it and spent money lobbying for it, records show.

The legislation would have placed stricter oversight on the use of contracted employees, which is already part of the collective bargaining agreement between the union and the university.

The agreement allows contracting as long as it does not displace union members or require them to move to another campus that would require relocation, among other conditions.

The agreement also requires the university system to consider union employees for any contracting chores, provided the employees have the required skills.  

The bill was scrapped, but a similar measure restricting the University of California system, Senate Bill 376, was supported in testimony by Pat Gantt, president of California State University Employees Union.

That bill passed but was vetoed by Gov. Brown.

Both bills are similar to a measure introduced last session seeking to do the same thing. That bill failed in committee.

RELATED – How California State University beats the tuition hike freeze

Additional Legislation Causes Clashes

Last year, the two parties clashed on several other measures. Among them was Assembly Bill 2721, which would have required the university system to add another member to the board of trustees.

The measure was crafted by the union and carried by Sen. Pan in hopes of putting someone on the board to exclusively represent union interests.

The measure sailed through both chambers, 78-0 in the House and 33-1 in the Senate.

Brown vetoed the legislation, though, writing, “Since the Board of Trustees was established in 1960, there have only been four additions to the Board. The last of these was the addition of the non-voting student member in 1999.  I am not persuaded that increasing the membership of the Board beyond 25 is necessary.”

The union accused the university of “fear-mongering” regarding a measure that would have better defined extended education classes and how they applied to undergraduates.

It claimed the system was telling union members that the bill would result in layoffs. The union, which along with several other organized labor groups who backed the measure, advised its membership to ignore the threats.

The bill, carried by Assemblyman Adam C. Gray, D-Merced, died in committee.

Lobbying for Favor

Cal State’s administration and the union have both spent generously on lobbying over the past several years, often at odds.

California State this year has spent $92,000 on lobbying through June while the union has spent $83,760, records show.

Last year, the university spent $396,545 on lobby-related activities while the union spent $248,446.

The union’s political action committee spends heavily on the annual lobby days in April, bringing in members and running up bills for hotels and airfare. This year, the union spent $15,000 on promotional materials with a Massachusetts-based company. 

The California State University system has increased student activity fees to offset a tuition freeze, making parking and health services more expensive.

The union insists that the average CSU salary for union members has increased 8 percent since 2004, rising from $46,362 to $50,179 in 2014, while the average pay for a campus president has risen 44 percent, from $218,871 in 2004 to $314,357 in 2014.

CSU contends the proposed 2 percent raise is fair. In a statement from earlier this month, it says “the 2 percent compensation increase costs $32.8 million. The 6.2 percent total salary increase the CFA is proposing costs $101.7 million. The CSU will continue to work to improve compensation for all employees but must balance all critical priorities that support student success.”

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