Kelly Puente and Ryan Hagen, Staff Writers
Posted: 05/02/2012 12:28:26 PM PDT

California State University faculty have voted to authorize a series of two-day strikes at each of the 23 campuses, if contract talks fail.

The California Faculty Association, which represents professors, librarians, counselors and other staff, announced the strike vote Wednesday at a noon news conference at Cal State Long Beach. The authorization was overwhelmingly approved by 95 percent of those who participated in a two-week voting process that ended on Friday.

“The message to Chancellor (Charles) Reed is absolutely clear: The CSU faculty have run out of patience and it is time to address the issues before us so that our faculty can get back to the business of providing quality higher education to the students of California,” said CFA President Lillian Taiz.

Inland Empire professors and students showed the same support, said Marcia Marx, president of CFA’s Cal State San Bernardino branch.

“We’ve had to take extreme measures to get our (CSU) leadership to realize that the faculty are pretty darned upset,” Marx said. “We’re rational, caring people that don’t want to be taking a lot of our time to be immersed in this. We want to do our research and teach our classes and do the things we’re good at…but we don’t want our university turning into limited access only for the wealthy.”

The decision was inevitable after 22 months of unsuccessful contract negotiations, said Michael Keith, a chemistry professor at Cal Poly Pomona.

“The problem is that the chancellor and board of trustees seem to be thinking that we’re a widget factory and the good thing is to turn out as many widgets as possible at the lowest possible cost,” Keith said, “not thinking that we’re talking about an education here and the quality of the education is important.”

The rolling strike would affect all 23 California State University campuses in the fall. Under the plan, campuses would go on strike for two days each, one immediately following another.

CSU spokesman Michael Uhlenkamp said the strike vote is premature considering the union and administration have formal bargaining sessions scheduled for today and Friday.

Uhlenkamp said the administration is hopeful that a settlement can still be reached before the strike is implemented.

“(Wednesday’s) announcement is more rhetoric from CFA leadership and has no bearing on negotiations,” he said. “The CSU labor team has indicated that there are a limited number of items that still need to be resolved, so we are optimistic about a resolution that could happen in the near future.”

CSU officials said the college system is struggling to offset a $970 million loss in state funding since 2008. The 400,000-student system has cut back on admissions and raised tuition by 23 percent in recent years, spurring a string of student protests in California.

Union leaders, however, noted that the CSU board of trustees approved 10 percent pay hikes for two campus presidents in March. Last year, trustees sparked a public outcry when they approved a $400,000 compensation package for San Diego State President Elliot Hirshman, while in the same meeting also voting to raise tuition.

Key bargaining positions for the union include job security, class sizes and a stable teaching force. Union representatives said the administration has proposed to freeze faculty salaries at current levels, which haven’t changed since 2008, with a proviso that talks on pay and benefits would be reopened for 2012-13.

The union has proposed a 1 percent raise.

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