CSUMB’s public information office didn’t respond to questions from the Lutrinae seeking a comment.
As of Thursday, Sept.14, the California Faculty Association (CFA) union has moved past negotiations with the Cal State University (CSU) Chancellor’s office; they are now at the fact finding stage. This is where both parties make their case to a three-person panel. One representative from each side, plus a neutral party.
Angie Ngọc Trần, a global studies professor at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) said, “I don’t know how long it will take to share the facts.”
Professor Trần has her Ph.D. in political economy and teaches a class called Sweat/Service/Solidarity, which aims to teach students about labor rights across the world.
After the facts are shared, there will be a 10-day blackout period where no party is allowed to talk about what happens. If there is still no resolution after the tenth day, there is going to be a vote. If the majority of the union votes yes, there will be a strike.
“From what I have heard from colleagues, I’m thinking toward the end of the semester, but not during midterms. I don’t want to give a date, because it would be unfair to you,”Professor Trần shared
However, how long a strike would last and what it would look like is too early to say. According to Trần, one possibility is a rolling strike.
“A rolling strike means we don’t want all 23 campuses to be on strike at the same time. We want to release the pressure on any one campus. So rolling strike means [striking] at one campus, then moving on to the next, then the next.”
Professor Trần shared that the last time the CFA negotiated their contracts ten years ago they were close to a strike. They had initiated a strike, and set up their picket line. However at the eleventh hour, the CSU gave in. “We had asked for 5% and you know what we got? We got 10%”
“We really wanted to settle this contract as quickly as possible. We don’t want to disrupt the students.”
“We proposed over 40 different dates to negotiate during the summer. Management kept on postponing, dragging the process into the fall,” professor Trần said.
“There are four demands. At all levels, our salary has not kept up with inflation. The second one is workload because we’ve been seeing the creeping up of class sizes across the whole system. Third is a one-semester paid parental leave, and in a crisis situation like the pandemic, [CFA] wants our members to be able to take care of their loved ones. The fourth is health and safety,” Professor Trần shared.
The CFA is all about empowering its members, as well as the students. Their slogan reads, “Our working conditions are your learning conditions.”
According to Professor Trần, the current bargaining is only for one academic year’s contract. “If we are successful in getting the 12% increase, then that’s only for one year. Then we start negotiating the contract for the next three years. That is separate.”
Because inflation has continued to rise while wages haven’t, this has put a toll on some faculty members at CSUMB.
Stephanie Spoto, a Humanities and Communication (HCOM) professor shared that, “When I first moved to the area ten years ago you could rent a room for $500 in Monterey, and now you can’t really rent a room for less than $1,000.”
In 10 years that estimates a 100% increase in rent, but the wages have not increased nearly as much.
“Every time we want an increase in wages, it is always such a fight. You know we have to fight so much,” Professor Spoto said with a sigh.
“Meanwhile, knowing that the university continues to hire more administrators who tend to make a lot more than faculty make, it makes us think ‘What is the purpose of university?’ Why is it that instructors and professors make so much less than administrators? It doesn’t really seem like we have fewer qualifications or that we work fewer hours,” said Spoto.
The reality some professors face these days is that despite teaching full-time at CSUMB, they still need to teach at other universities and perhaps even a part-time job just to make ends meet.
“If you teach 12 units which is full time and you have a Ph.D., after taxes you bring home, I don’t know $3,500 a month. And if you want to rent a one-bedroom apartment you’re going to be paying $1,000 a month maybe,” said Spoto.
“I have never had my own place. Even though my own rent is cheaper than market rate (I am very lucky about that), I still have to have roommates to help me pay for it.”