The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

California Faculty Association Reaches Tentative Agreement for Higher Wages, Better Conditions

Blake Amis

Members of the California Faculty Association voted Feb. 18 to approve a tentative proposal with the California State University system that includes two 5 percent wage increases for faculty along with a range of other benefits.

The faculty union, which initiated a historic statewide strike in January to protest employee working conditions, also won an increase in parental leave for teachers from six weeks to 10; an increased counselor-to-student ratio with recommendations of 1,500 students per counselor, as well as the ability of counselors to request an academic year or 10-month employment contracts; and a salary floor increase of $3,000 for the lowest paid faculty.

The agreement comes after a months-long battle between teachers and the administration over conditions regarding salary, benefits, workload, paid family leave and public safety, according to Jeff Newcomb, a CFA East Bay Faculty Executive Board President. 

“The strike was the culmination of a long period of negotiation and angst between the CFA and the CSU management beginning back in June,” Newcomb told The Inquirer in a recent interview.

At the heart of the conflict, it seemed, was the nagging issue of inequality. 

For salary comparison, the CSU chancellor, Mildred Garcia, earns around $891,000 between her base salary and housing allowance. That is about a 24 percent increase from her $720,000 salary the year prior, according to the CSU executive compensation summary.

CSU campus presidents as a whole got approximately a 29 percent increase in salary during that period.

By contrast, in 2022, the average salary earned by the 16,430 instructional faculty members in the system was $65,553, according to the CSU’s head count and salary trends page.

The new agreement to raise teachers’ salaries was overdue, and a welcome victory for the state’s instructors, Newcomb said.

“This is a long standing practice motivated by a board of trustees who in many ways are tone deaf to what’s really going on in education,” said Newcomb.

“It’s been an extraordinary and very deliberate attempt to keep faculty in a subordinate position, relative to other activities in the system.”

As of 2022, CSU schools had accumulated a total of $8.1 billion in reserves, added Newcomb. The agreement also comes as students in the CSU system face a 34 percent tuition increase over the next five years, which the CFA has opposed.

In an informational social media video, Josh Grisetti, an associate professor who directs the Musical Theater BFA program at Cal State Fullerton, explained that in the 15 years between 2007 and 2022, the CSU chancellor’s salary increased by 43 percent, and presidential salaries across the schools grew between 40 and 70 percent. Other sources have the chancellor’s salary increase ranging from 38 to 48 percent.

“Over the past few years, inflation has outpaced the increase in our salaries,” said Grisetti in his video. “It’s not surprising that people who have all the money on the top want to pass inflation onto their labor force.”

In that same period, the average salary for full-time professors increased by 22 percent, according to Grisetti.

The agreement struck by CFA negotiators also seeks to create a safer and more hospitable work environment for faculty, students of color and individuals with disabilities, according to Newcomb.

For example, the contract contains language that establishes protection of rights for faculty, who may be accompanied by a union representative if they are questioned or interviewed by police.

“These elements that are now a part of our tentative agreement are about helping individuals have some kind of support and some kind of consultation if they are involved in any kind of on-campus police questioning or action,” said Newcomb.

“Having a representative from the union or having a representative from an outside source as a companion and support is a crucial step in maintaining equality and representation.” 

First-time language also added to the contract addresses the needs of establishing gender-inclusive restrooms, lactation spaces, and a process to monitor its accessibility and sufficiency, according to the CFA website.

The CSU Board of Trustees will vote to ratify the agreement at its next meeting on March 24, according to the CFA website. If ratified, the agreement would extend CSU teachers’ next collective bargaining agreement for another year, to June 30, 2025.

Talks on the agreement had stalled between June and December of last year, when there was little movement from CSU management based on the proposals put forward by the CFA. 

The two parties had engaged in a bargaining process as laid down by California law, known as the Higher Education Employment Relations Act, or HEERA. But they went into an impasse after not reaching a deal, according to Newcomb and the CFA resources website. 

Then, in December 2023, the CFA board of directors voted and agreed to implement a historic statewide strike involving all CSU faculty members from Jan. 22-26.

It was that strike, coinciding with the start of the 2024 spring semester across CSU schools, which finally brought administrators to the table. The CFA and CSU management reached a tentative agreement on Jan. 22, ending the strike after one day.

In the weeklong voting process, 76 percent of CFA members voted in favor of the tentative agreement, winning with a simple majority vote.

“We thank members for their solidarity, debate, and courage to press CSU management for better faculty working and student learning conditions, especially everyone who worked tirelessly organizing the successful strikes and joining the picket lines,” said CFA President Charles Toombs in a CFA news article.

CSU Chancellor Garcia also expressed relief at the agreement.

“I am extremely pleased and deeply appreciative that we have reached common ground with CFA that will end the strike immediately,” Garcia said in a statement following the strike. 

But the agreement isn’t the end of the fight for Sharon Elise, department chair and professor of sociology at CSU San Marcos and Associate Vice President for Racial & Social Justice at the CFA.

“We know that some members had strong concerns about the process and questions about the result,” said Elise in a CFA news article.

We will only be successful if we’re working together to continue building a CSU that empowers students and provides work environments that support faculty and staff.”

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About the Contributors
Nate Wendling, Staff Writer
Blake Amis, Graphic Artist

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