Staff at the California College of the Arts (CCA) recently went on a four-day strike at their Oakland and San Francisco campuses. Staff, which include librarians, counselors, student advisors, and others, are pushing for higher wages, job security, and better benefits. It is the first strike at a private college in California since 1976.
The strike comes after two years of failed negotiations. CCA staff voted to unionize with SEIU Local 1021 in April of 2019 and have since been unable to secure their first contract. The union is accusing the college of failing to recognize the unionized workers by dragging out the bargaining process – CCA didn’t make their first counter proposal on salaries until January 24th of this year! In response, 97% of the union membership voted in December 2021 to authorize a strike.
The strikers were not alone in their fight. Students and adjunct faculty, who are also unionized with Local 1021 and have been struggling to negotiate a second contract with the college after their first expired in 2020, showed their solidarity with the strikers by taking part in a sympathy strike. Professors also cancelled classes in support of the picket lines, essentially shutting down regular campus activity.
Most workers have not received wage increases since January 2020, and no pension contributions for a full year. So far, CCA has offered all union staff a 2% wage increase. But with most staff making less than $40,000 a year and two-thirds of them being low-income, strikers correctly argue that this is not enough to keep up with the cost of living and commuting in the Bay Area. In addition, they point out the excessive salaries of the college’s top administrators – in 2019, four of the school’s administrators made well over $270,000, while the president took in over $580,000!
All workers should have the right to organize and join unions without retaliation from their bosses. We should support CCA staff and their ongoing struggle to get what they rightfully deserve.