Over the past week, members of the California Faculty Association (CFA) at the California State University (CSU) system went on strike across the state. The CSU system is the largest four-year public university system in the United States. After a 95 percent strike authorization vote, over 29,000 lecturers, professors, librarians, counselors and coaches across California are fighting for a contract that has a 12 percent wage increase, more parental leave, gender-inclusive restroom facilities and more counseling and mental health supports for students. Because California is one of the most expensive states to live in, many faculty and staff do not make enough to live on so they are forced to work at multiple campuses simultaneously.
The CSU administration claims that it cannot afford the union’s demands. But to add insult to injury, the CSU’s chancellor, Mildred Garcia, earns an annual salary of nearly $800,000 in addition to a $1,000 monthly auto stipend and $8,000 per month for housing.
Rather than mobilizing the entire membership, the union leadership has decided to only turn out a small portion in one-day strikes on four campuses out of a possible 23 campuses over December 4th through 7th. The union vows to escalate strike actions if there isn’t meaningful movement at the bargaining table. In spite of the isolation, the strike picket lines have been lively, eliciting support from students as well as workers from other unions who are facing contract fights as well. Many students saw their shared struggle and took to heart the slogan on the faculty members’ picket sign, “Our working conditions are students’ learning conditions!” They are right. Students, faculty, and all university workers have a common interest in standing together to improve education.
In a society that seems to have endless resources for war, why is it that we have to constantly fight for things that we need, like education?