Fresno State faculty demonstrated Tuesday on campus about a week after California State University professors approved a strike if their demands for higher pay and other accommodations are not met.
The California Faculty Association authorized a strike Oct. 30 for faculty at the 23-campus CSU system that includes Fresno State, where professors called for a 12% raise during a rally on campus on Tuesday.
The union represents 29,000 professors, librarians, counselors and lecturers. The potential strike was approved with a 95% vote.
Assistant history professor Julia Shatz, who participated in the demonstration, said she’s worked at Fresno State since 2018 but her pay has not kept up with the rising cost of living in California.
“So my pay has increased slightly because of union negotiated contract increases, but adjusted for inflation, I am making less than I did in 2018,” the 37-year-old said.
The union has proposed a 12% salary increase, and the CSU system’s latest offer was 5%, according to numbers from CSU.
The system’s leadership argues faculty’s demands can’t be met in a sustainable and fiscally responsible way, saying the union’s proposal adds up to an additional $380 million while the system’s lower pitch works out to about $134 million.
Compounding the increased cost of living is that CSU professors don’t get cost of living adjustment raises, according to political science professor Lisa Bryant, who also demonstrated in Fresno.
“Meanwhile, educators in other sectors — K-12 (and) community colleges — have gotten not only salary increases in their contract rates, but they’ve also gotten cost of living increases,” the 48-year-old said.
The Fresno Unified School District and Fresno Teachers Association averted a strike of their own last week when the two agreed on terms that included raises and smaller class sizes.
Maintenance workers for CSU campuses plan a 24-hour strike Nov. 14 through their union, Teamsters Local 2010.
Demonstrators at Tuesday’s rally also noted successful actions taken in recent months by the United Auto Workers and Writers Guild of America, which both went on strike to demand better wages.
The California Faculty Association professors union has also demanded raising pay of the lowest paid faculty, lighter workloads and counseling for students’ mental health needs, as well as expanded parental leave, gender-inclusive restrooms and safety provisions for faculty who may interact with police officers on campus.
The negotiations are in the fact-finding stage and the union is waiting on a report from a third party before deciding the next steps, according to John Beynon, an English professor at Fresno State and president of the local chapter of the faculty union.
“The cost of living even in the Valley, even in Fresno, is skyrocketing. It’s more and more expensive to get a home,” Beynon said. “And then folks who have been here for a number of years are wondering, ‘How am I going to take care of my parents who are needing to go into assisted living?’ ... We need to have salaries that meet those demands.”
The CSU system has about $733 million in reserves earmarked for a rainy day, which union leaders have argued can be used to meet their demands. The CSU has rejected that claim.
“Drawing on reserves to fund recurring expenses such as salary increases can lead to structural deficits and is not a sustainable alternative to using state funding or student tuition to support our ongoing educational mission for students,” Hazel Kelly, CSU’s communications manager, told the Mercury News after the union authorized the strike.