CSU professors strike for higher pay

imageHundreds gathered to picket in front of CSU Dominguez Hills Thursday. The Carson campus is one of two CSU campuses staging walkouts. The other is CSU East Bay, but professors from Cal State’s 23 campuses around California joined the protest. The strike comes just one day after CSU student protests over a nine percent tuition hike turned violent.

The strike is being staged by the California Faculty Association, or CFA, the union that represents CSU professors. They’re calling for a quarter-percent pay raise and urging CSU Chancellor Charles Reed to shift his priorities to focus on students.

The California Faculty Association is the union that represents CSU professors. While roughly half of all CSU professors boast CFA membership, the union negotiates on behalf of all 44-thousand educators in the system, members or not.

The message from the professors is clear–you can’t put students first if you put teachers last.

“I got two kids, can’t afford daycare,” said Steve Jobbitt, a history professor at Cal State Fullerton. “With the money they pay me up at Cal State Fullerton, I can’t even afford the cheapest subsidized housing. That just goes to tell you. Take a look at the cost of living. Take a look at what we earn and what we invested in our education. I’m going deeper into debt now than when I was a graduate student.”

When adjusted for inflation, Cal State professors are making less on average than they were in 1998. Chancellor Reed maintains that the university system cannot afford to offer the professors a pay raise. He estimates the quarter-percent pay raise translates to $20 million per year.

But Jobbitt and the others insist the strike is about more than salaries. It’s about the quality of education for California’s students.

“Truthfully, if you look around here, everybody here isn’t here about money,” said Lillian Taiz, CFA President. “They’re here about trying to preserve the education for our students–the road to the middle class–to improve middle class jobs. We’re just like everybody else is the country that is sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

Some students joined in support of the striking professors. Gavin Centeno is a junior at CSU Dominguez Hills. He skipped classes today to stand with the professors.

“They sacrifice so much for us. It’s time that we need to support them. In essence, when we support them, we’re supporting our education,” Centeno said.

Fourth-year Fredit Figueroa is another Dominguez Hills student. He wasn’t intending on skipping classes today, but all three of his were cancelled.

“Campus is looking pretty empty today. At least half of the students are missing, half of the faculty. I’ve never seen it like this before,” said Fredit, who was not involved in the protest, but supportive. “I think this is great, someone is finally doing something. Tuition has been going up every year. I started out paying $1,800 and now I’m paying $4,000 already.”

Tuition is also an issue for Cal State LA student Semein Abbay.

“We have to pay more tuition, while the administration and Chancellor Reed are getting raises and it’s coming out of our pockets, so I’m here fighting against that,” Abbay said.

Liz Chapin, a spokeswoman for Chancellor Reed’s office, said students shouldn’t be put in the middle of negotiations between the union and CSU and any effort by the union to do so in unacceptable. She said that while they share frustration about cuts to the system, they’ve had to go to great lengths to keep the doors of its campuses open.