Monica Itxy Quintanilla
To avoid a systemwide faculty strike, California State University Chancellor Timothy White and the California Faculty Association have settled on an agreement providing 26,000 faculty members across 23 campuses with pay increases of either 11 or 14 percent over the next two years.
Under the agreement — announced Friday — a five percent increase is scheduled for June 30, with an additional two percent increase in July and 3.5 percent boost a year later, in July 2017. Depending on length of university service, some faculty will be entitled to an added longevity increase of just over 2.5 percent beginning in 2017. The deal will also provide tenure-track faculty with a wage increase of nine percent — up from the current 7.5 percent — upon their promotion.
At the CSU level, the issue of a fair wage has presented an ongoing debate. For the past two years, the CFA has waged a “Fight for 5%” campaign, seeking a five percent general salary increase for CSU faculty members. Its demand has repeatedly been rejected, answered instead by an increase of just two percent.
Members of the CSU faculty union have claimed throughout negotiations in recent years that their salaries have lagged behind rates of inflation. They see the lack of funding as a shift by CSU away from education, in favor of initiatives like the hiring of new administrators and less costly part-time lecturers in place of tenure-track professors.
In an expression of its growing discontent with this pattern, the CFA threatened a five-day potential strike — slated to begin today — involving class cancellations and picket demonstrations were its demands were not met. It would have been the CSU’s first system-wide strike, affecting 23 campuses and the 473,000 students they serve statewide.
In light of the upcoming 2016 elections, wage policies have gained increasing attention across the United States. Federally, the minimum wage is exceptionally far from what many economists consider a “living wage,” at $7.25 per hour.
At this pay rate, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology found that the average American household containing two adults and two children would have to work two full-time jobs at 77 hours per week apiece to afford such basic necessities as food, housing, healthcare, childcare and transportation. In the case of a single parent with two children, three and a half minimum wage jobs, at 139 hours per week, would be required to support the family — more hours than in a five-day week. California, for its part, committed last week to raising its state minimum from the current $10 per hour to $15 over the next six years.
At the UC level, the “UC Fair Wage Fair Work Plan” guarantees that employees working at least 20 hours a week will be paid at least $15 per hour even sooner — by October 2017 — making the UC the first public university in the country to voluntarily establish such a wage. The plan also requires that outside workers contracted by the UC be paid in accordance to the same standard.
The fair wage plan does not apply to UC students, however. University guidelines cap schedules for student workers at 19.5 hours per week, rendering students ineligible for the $15 minimum wage plan.
If approved by the California Faculty Association’s board and members, the CSU faculty agreement will be presented before the CSU Board of Trustees at its May meeting.