The week before Christmas brought another hard-fought deal to prevent a strike hitting California’s public universities.
California State University and its faculty association have tentatively agreed on a new contract, thwarting a possible work stoppage after 20 months of negotiations. The deal includes a general 4% raise retroactive to July 1, 2021, another 4% bump on July 1, 2022, plus a $3,500 COVID bonus in recognition of the colossal upheaval to instruction as classes moved online in the 2020-21 school year.
The raises and bonus match what was being sought by the California Faculty Association, which represents 29,000 professors, lecturers, counselors and others, including some athletic coaches. The CSU administration had previously offered only 2%, and the two sides had been so far apart that they went to a more severe stage of state mediation, Mikhail says.
Things were looking so dire that union leaders were telling members to start warning students of a possible walkout and class cancellations in the spring term at CSU, the nation’s largest public university system with nearly 500,000 students. CFA leaders credited the deal to activism by faculty, including petitions presented to campus presidents in early November and a Nov. 9 rally at the CSU trustees meeting.
Charles Toombs, CFA president, said: “Our new contract was made possible because faculty members were united in demanding our rights, respect, and justice.”
The agreement is subject to a ratification vote by CFA members and approval from the CSU board of trustees.
It follows a series of other labor agreements:
- On Dec. 8, the University of California recognized a union of 17,000 student researchers and staved off a labor disruption that would have significantly imperiled $5 billion in research funding.
- On Nov. 17, the UC system struck a last-ditch deal with its lecturers union, ending a years-long impasse that could have cancelled classes for one-third of undergraduates.
The settlements show that the ivory tower isn’t immune from the increase in worker activism during the COVID-19 pandemic — think “Striketober” and the “Great Resignation” — and the historic power of organized labor in California.