NATIONAL NEWS

California faculty at largest US university system launch strike for better pay

Dec 4, 2023, 6:00 AM | Updated: 4:04 pm

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Faculty at California State University, the largest public university system in the U.S., kicked off a series of 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.

Hundreds of faculty members picketed at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, also known as Cal Poly Pomona, to launch the latest push by the California Faculty Association to fight for better pay and benefits for the roughly 29,000 workers the union represents across the university system’s 23 campuses.

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.

“What we’re doing is in the spirit of maintaining the integrity of what the public education system should be for,” said Maria Gisela Sanchez, a counselor at Cal Poly Pomona who picketed Monday. “Public education belongs to all of us.”

The union also planned strikes this week at San Francisco State University; California State University, Los Angeles; and California State University, Sacramento.

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.

Cal Poly Pomona leadership said the campus would remain open and that some faculty would still hold classes. Instructors participating in the strike notified students about cancellations and gave them instructions to prepare for the next class.

Kate Ozment, an English assistant professor and assembly delegate for the union’s Cal Poly Pomona chapter, said the only reason she could afford to take her job at the university after earning $18,000 annually as a graduate student in Texas was because she is married.

“That’s 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,” she said. “That’s not actually what the CSU is supposed to be about.”

On top of salary concerns, Ozment said without an increase in parental leave, she can’t afford to have a child. Only having six weeks of parental leave as opposed to a full semester disrupts classes when professors have expertise in niche topics in which other teachers do not, she said.

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 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 auto workers picketed 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.

___

Sophie Austin is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Austin on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter: @sophieadanna

National News

Associated Press

Israel-Hamas war protesters temporarily take over building on University of Chicago campus

CHICAGO (AP) — A group protesting the war in Gaza and demanding that the University of Chicago divest from companies doing business with Israel temporarily took over a building on the school’s campus. Members of the group surrounded the Institute of Politics building around 5 p.m. Friday while others made their way inside, the Chicago […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

US intelligence suggests American who vanished in Syria in 2017 has died, daughter says she was told

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. officials have developed specific and highly credible intelligence suggesting that an American citizen who disappeared seven years ago while traveling in Syria has died, the man’s daughter said Saturday. Maryam Kamalmaz said in an interview with The Associated Press that during a meeting in Washington this month with eight senior American […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Widespread power outages from deadly Houston storm raise new risk: hot weather

HOUSTON (AP) — As the Houston area works to clean up and restore power to thousands after deadly storms that left at least seven people dead, it will do so Saturday under a smog warning and as all of southern Texas starts to feel the heat. The National Weather Service in Houston warned that with […]

12 hours ago

Associated Press

Man shoots his 6-month-old baby multiple times at home near Phoenix, but child expected to survive

SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — A man shot his 6-month-old baby multiple times Friday at a home northwest of Phoenix after taking the infant and its mother captive, but the mother escaped with minor injuries and the child was expected to survive, authorities said. They said the status of the suspect remained unknown after a fire […]

16 hours ago

Associated Press

Missouri candidate with ties to the KKK can stay on the Republican ballot, judge rules

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A longshot Missouri gubernatorial candidat e with ties to the Ku Klux Klan will stay on the Republican ticket, a judge ruled Friday. Cole County Circuit Court Judge Cotton Walker denied a request by the Missouri GOP to kick Darrell McClanahan out of the August Republican primary. McClanahan is running […]

16 hours ago

Associated Press

UN experts say South Sudan is close to securing a $13 billion oil-backed loan from a UAE company

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.N. experts say South Sudan is close to securing a $13 billion loan from a company in the United Arab Emirates, despite the oil-rich country’s difficulties in managing debts backed by its oil reserves. The panel of experts said in a report to the U.N. Security Council that loan documents it […]

18 hours ago

California faculty at largest US university system launch strike for better pay