Demanding a 12 percent pay raise, 28,000 members of the California Faculty Association launched a weeklong strike Monday.

The strikers include tenure-track and lecturer faculty, counselors, librarians, and coaches who work in all 23 campuses of the California State University system.

“We find it almost embarrassing that some of our lecture faculty are on the verge of homelessness,” said Kevin Pina, a lecturer at Cal State East Bay and association representative for lecturers. He said that earning an average of $4,800 per semester per class is not a living wage.

“Some have been forced to sleep in their cars, some have been forced to sleep in warm classrooms at night. Others have had their relationships and marriages torn apart because of the subsistence wages that have been forced upon them over the last decade,” he said.

Assemblymember Liz Ortega, representing the California 20th Assembly District spoke to a crowd of strikers in the pouring rain at Cal State East Bay campus Monday. Faculty at San Francisco State University said they were sending strike brigades to join other actions in East Bay, Sonoma and San Jose State, as their classes don’t start until next week.

What the strikers want

California State University officials issued a statement Monday saying that their campuses will remain open, adding that “Individual faculty members who decide to strike will cancel their own classes.”

In addition to the 12 percent pay raise, Pina said, the association is also asking for an extended maternity leave, from 60 days to a full semester, as well as lactation stations, gender neutral bathrooms and lower course caps. Courses with more than 30 or 35 students require extra work on the part of faculty, but with no extra pay.

“The CSU would only discuss salary,” Pina said. “They would not address any of the other issues at all, as if they didn’t exist, which we found to be a very insulting thing at the bargaining table.” He said that CSU did not listen to recommendations by the factfinder, an intermediary at the negotiating table who makes recommendations. CSU offered a 5 percent increase effective Jan. 31. The factfinder had recommended a 7 percent increase, he said.

“The CFA’s demand for a 12 percent raise would cost $312 million just this year ... and is more than the entire budget of Cal Poly Pomona ($369 million).”

California State University statement

According to a statement from CSU, a general salary increase of 15 percent, in the form of a 5 percent raise each year over three years, will take effect Jan. 31. They offered the faculty union two additional weeks of paid parental leave, up to 8 weeks rather than the current 6 weeks.

“The CFA’s demand for a 12 percent raise would cost $312 million just this year,” the CSU statement said. “Their other economic demands, such as life insurance increases and raising the minimum pay add up to another $68 million, for a total of $380 million. This is financially unrealistic. Their request far surpasses the state funding increase that the CSU received in last year’s state budget ($227 million) and is more than the entire budget of Cal Poly Pomona ($369 million).”

Enrollment outlook: Hope vs. gloom

The university system has cited low enrollment numbers as the reason for recent layoffs, according to Pina. He said that at his campus, Cal State East Bay, the workers in the communities that had feeder schools worked within the service industry, and during the pandemic they had to move.

“But now we are seeing enrollments climb again, so we see a lot of hope, where the CSU management has seen dark and gloom,” Pina said. “They justify cutting classes that students need to graduate.”

According to CFA East Bay chapter president Jeff Newcomb, 60 percent of all courses are taught by lecturers who are part-time.

“If you don’t teach at least six units a semester, you lose your retirement benefits and you lose your medical benefits,” said Pina, adding that full-time faculty get paid even if their classes don’t fill with students.

“All part time lecturers, which are the majority of the teachers in the system, receive a letter that says that their employment is temporary and contingent upon enrollment and funding every semester,” said Pina. “So, we’re always kept expendable.”