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Economy

California State University faculty launch strike for better pay

Faculty at California State University, the largest public university system in the U.S., will hold a series of four one-day strikes starting Monday across four campuses to demand higher pay and more parental leave for thousands of professors, librarians, coaches and other workers.

The strikes at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; San Francisco State University; California State University, Los Angeles; and California State University, Sacramento are the latest push by the California Faculty Association to fight for better pay and benefits for the roughly 29,000 workers the union represents.

The union is seeking a 12% salary raise and an increase in parental leave from six weeks to a full semester. They also want more manageable workloads for faculty, better access to breastfeeding stations, and more gender-inclusive restrooms.

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Anne Luna, president of the faculty union's Sacramento chapter, said these workers need a boost in pay and benefits at a time when the cost of rent, groceries, child care, and other necessities have gone up in recent years.

"They can afford to provide fair compensation and safe working conditions," Luna said in a statement. "It's time to stop funneling tuition and taxpayer money into a top-heavy administration."

The rolling strike is designed to keep up the pressure on the CSU and maintain momentum for striking faculty.

Right now San Diego State University and Cal State San Marcos are not on the picket line list, but they could be depending on whether negotiations stall.

KPBS talked with some students on the San Diego State campus Monday.

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Julie Ivey is a sophomore studying biology, who said she won’t forget the support she got last year when she had a personal crisis.

“One of the professors helped me out. She understood and really helped me through it. Not just because I’m biased, but they’re people and people deserve to be treated fairly," Ivey said.

“I’m willing to support them fully. They're my professors. They are the reason I’m getting an education," said Paige Simoneau, a sophomore studying environmental science.

“I’m willing to support them fully. They're my professors. They are the reason I’m getting an education."
Paige Simoneau, San Diego State student

The California State University chancellor's office says the pay increase the union is seeking would cost the system $380 million in new recurring spending. That would be $150 million more than increased funding for the system by the state for the 2023-24 year, the office said.

Leora Freedman, the vice chancellor for human resources, said in a statement that the university system aims to pay its workers fairly and provide competitive benefits.

"We recognize the need to increase compensation and are committed to doing so, but our financial commitments must be fiscally sustainable," Freedman said.

She said the chancellor's office respects workers' right to strike and would prepare to minimize disruptions on campuses.

Beyond the faculty union, other California State University workers are fighting for better pay and bargaining rights. The Teamsters Local 2010 union, which represents plumbers, electricians and maintenance workers employed by the university system, held a one-day strike last month to fight for better pay. In October, student workers across the university system's 23 campuses became eligible to vote to form a union.

Jason Rabinowitz, secretary-treasurer for Teamsters Local 2010, which plans to strike in support of the faculty union, said skilled workers have been paid far less than workers in similar roles at University of California campuses.

"Teamsters will continue to stand together and to stand with our fellow Unions, until CSU treats our members, faculty, and all workers at CSU with the fairness we deserve," Rabinowitz said in a statement.

The strike comes during a big year for labor, one in which health care professionals, Hollywood actors and writers, and Big 3 autoworkers vote 'yes' to historic UAW contracts for better pay and working conditions. It's all amid new California laws granting workers more paid sick leave, as well as increased wages for health care and fast food workers.

Last year, teaching assistants and graduate student workers at the University of California went on strike for a month, disrupting classes as the fall semester came to a close.

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