California State University

Members of the California Faculty Association and supporters attend a meeting of Cal State trustees in Long Beach on March 8. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Carla Rivera
March 8, 2016

California State University faculty members appealed to trustees Tuesday to do more to avert a strike at the nation’s largest university system, but the two sides remain at odds over salaries for about 26,000 professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches.

Members of the California Faculty Assn. urged trustees meeting in Long Beach to consider their legacy and find a way fund the 5% pay raise that faculty members have been demanding for nearly a year. Without a new salary deal, union members have pledged to go on strike in April in what would be the largest academic walkout at a four-year university in U.S. history.

But the trustees’ Committee on Collective Bargaining spent the bulk of its time Tuesday hearing about plans to keep campuses open if the strike comes to pass. Athletic and civic events will proceed, students will be expected to attend classes unless the professor cancels them and campus presidents will find ways to provide mental health counseling and other critical services.

“We’re seeking to minimize the impact on students,” said Lori Lamb, vice chancellor for human resources. “We remain hopeful about a potential resolution; however we must plan for the eventuality of a strike.”

Board of Trustees Chairman Lou Monville said that no one “relishes where we are now” and asked all sides to work together to secure additional state funding. The Cal State system, he said, is still historically underfunded and has yet to recover from steep budget cuts enacted during the recession.

Those comments elicited groans from faculty members who crowded the meeting room and held up signs with the words “36 days,” in reference to the time remaining before a strike.

Union members at all 23 campuses said they won’t hold classes or perform other academic work April 13 to 15 or April 18 to 19 if no salary agreement is reached. Strikes could continue beyond April 19 if an impasse persists, faculty union President Jennifer Eagan told trustees.

Eagan, a philosophy and public administration professor at Cal State East Bay, suggested that system leaders are “fiddling while Rome burns.”

“Your house is on fire, please pay attention,” Eagan said, directing her comments at Chancellor Timothy P. White. “This is your responsibility, and it is happening on your watch.”

The union is demanding a general 5% pay raise for all faculty, plus smaller additional increases for those at the lower end of the pay scale.

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