Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cal State Faculty to Vote on Largest University Strike in U.S. History

California State University faculty started a strike authorization vote yesterday after 22 months of failed talks over salary, class sizes and other issues, the Los Angeles Times reported this week. Professors have had no raise in 5 years and are asking for a modest 1% pay increase for each year of the new contract, plus more control over class sizes and greater stability for faculty with temporary contracts.

A yes vote would result in two-day rolling strikes at the University’s 23 campuses, beginning in the fall of 2012, according to California Faculty Association, which represents 23,000 Cal State professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches.

The CSU system lost $750 million this fiscal year, with another $200-million reduction planned for next year if the governor’s tax plan fails to win enough votes in November. CSU has faced multiple large scale budget cuts for each of the past few years. In response it has increased tuition each year, slashed course offerings and turned away thousands of students.

As usual, Cal State officials claimed the union's demands would be prohibitive at a time of severe budget cuts. Yet administrators have been getting raises of 10% or more for the past few years. SDSU’s new president, for example, is earning $100,000 more than the previous president, a 25% salary hike.

Strike Early, Strike Often
If CSU faculty walks out, it would be the largest university strike in U.S. history and one of the largest strikes in the past five years. American workers need a good strike, particularly a successful one. The unions have all but given up strikes and other job actions that place financial pressure on the bosses even though these are our most effective weapons for winning improvement in compensation and working conditions.

Any large strike has the potential to inspire and embolden other workers. Strikes can beget more strikes, particularly when successful. The more workers go out on strike, the more the bosses will listen and compromise in hopes of averting larger, more militant and more demanding strikes. So long as workers remain quiescent, the bosses will continue to walk all over us under the belief they can do so without any risk or consequence.

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