Faculty at California State University, the largest public university system in the U.S., could stage a systemwide strike later this month after school officials ended contract negotiations Tuesday with a unilateral offer of a 5% pay raise, far below what the union is demanding.
Professors, librarians, coaches and other members of the California Faculty Association staged a series of one-day walkouts across four campuses last month to demand higher pay, more manageable workloads and an increase in parental leave.
The union, which represents roughly 29,000 workers across Cal State’s 23 campuses, is seeking a 12% pay raise. In offering just 5% effective Jan. 31, university officials said the union’s salary demands were not financially viable and would have resulted in layoffs and other cuts.
“With this action, we will ensure that well-deserved raises get to our faculty members as soon as possible,” Leora Freedman, vice chancellor for human resources, said in a statement. “We have been in the bargaining process for eight months and the CFA has shown no movement, leaving us no other option.”
The union’s bargaining team reserved four days for talks this week, “making every effort to bargain in good faith and explore the space for a negotiated soluton before a systemwide strike January 22 to 26,” the CFA said.
“CFA members delivered four proposals Monday, but were met with disrespect from management today,” said a union statement Tuesday. “After 20 minutes, the CSU management bargaining team threatened systemwide layoffs, walked out of bargaining, cancelled all remaining negotiations, then imposed a last, best and final offer on CFA members.”
If it happens, the systemwide strike would be held at all 23 campuses for one week starting Jan. 22, which marks the beginning of the spring semester for most students.
Cal State said it “respects the rights of CFA to engage in strike activity” and takes seriously any planned union action.
“All campuses would remain open during a strike and have contingency plans in place to maintain university operations. Our hope is to minimize any disruptions and that the strike poses no hardship on our students,” the university system said Tuesday.
One-day strikes were held in December at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; San Francisco State University; California State University, Los Angeles; and California State University, Sacramento.
In addition to pay raises, the union is pushing for an increase in parental leave from six weeks to a full semester, better access to breastfeeding stations and more gender-inclusive restrooms.
The Cal State chancellor’s office said last month that the pay increase the union is seeking would cost the system $380 million in new recurring spending.
Beyond the faculty union, other California State University workers are fighting for better pay and bargaining rights. The Teamsters Local 2010 union, which represents plumbers, electricians and maintenance workers employed by the university system, held a one-day strike in November to fight for better pay. In October, student workers across the university system’s campuses became eligible to vote to form a union.
The threat of a systemwide strike follows a big year for labor, one in which health care professionals, Hollywood actors and writers, and auto workers picketed for better pay and working conditions. It’s all amid new California laws granting workers more paid sick leave, as well as increased wages for health care and fast food workers.
In 2022, teaching assistants and graduate student workers at the University of California went on strike for a month, disrupting classes as the fall semester came to a close.