Hundreds of faculty members picketed at California State Polytechnic University on Monday, Dec. 4. This was the first in a series of one-day strikes taking place on four campuses; the strike is an action by the California Faculty Association. Their goal is to secure better pay and benefits for approximately 29 thousand members, including professors, coaches, librarians, and other faculty and workers.

The union operates on all of the system’s 23 campuses. Other strikes that took place the same week were at San Francisco University, California State University at Los Angeles, and California State University at Sacramento. They are seeking a 12% increase in salary and for parental leave to be extended from six weeks to a complete semester.

In response, the California State University chancellor’s office has said that a pay increase of that amount would cost $380 million regularly, while the university had only received a $150 million increase in state funding for the 2023-24 year. The office stated that they respect their workers’ right to strike and that they recognize the need to increase compensation, but that the union’s requested amount is not financially sustainable. The office says it is prepared to minimize campus disruptions that might result from the strikes.

These strikes are occurring at a complicated time as students prepare for final exams. Campuses have remained open and some professors have continued to hold classes, and instructors who have canceled classes gave their students advanced warning. “We have told the students from the beginning of the semester,” one picketer said, “that we are in the middle of labor negotiations.” Some instructors left directions on how to prepare for class content that would resume upon their return to the classroom. Earlier in the semester, students, whose tuition has been increasing, walked in solidarity with their professors.

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Strikes like these fall notably close those of the Teamsters Local 2010 union, which saw California State University workers such as electricians, maintenance workers, and plumbers hold a one-day strike in November. The Teamsters Local 2010 union plans to strike again in support of the California Faculty Association. Last year, graduate student workers at the University of California went on strike for an entire month. In October of this year, student workers of the university system became eligible to vote to form a union.

One of Monday’s picketers said, “What we’re doing is in the spirit of maintaining the integrity of what the public education system should be for.” Another has said, “What we’re seeing is that people who are two-income households or have generational wealth are the ones who can afford to take these jobs. That’s not actually what the CSU is supposed to be about.”

Administrator salaries have increased at a significantly higher rate than those of faculty members. As reported by CalMatters, from 2007 to 2022 the base salaries for CSU presidents have increased by 43% and for chancellors by 38%, as opposed to increases of only 30% for professors and 22% for lecturers.

The decision to strike was unanimous on the part of the board of directors of the California Faculty Association after union members voted in favor of striking by a staggering 95%.