Possible CSU worker strike would impact San Diego State and Cal State San Marcos

Negotiations have broken down between CSU and the union representing thousands of lecturers, professors and counselors at state schools

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More than 29,000 employees who help educate students at Cal State Universities, like San Diego State and Cal State San Marcos, could end up striking.

Negotiations have broken down between the CSU and the California Faculty Association (CFA), the union representing lecturers, professors and counselors at state schools.

Savanna Schuermann has been an anthropology lecturer at SDSU for nearly 10 years. Like others, she also lectures
at other colleges to help make ends meet. But frustration is mounting over benefits and pay inequity.

“It’s just ridiculous,” Schuermann said laughing. “I'm teaching 250 students a semester, working all the time, doing things beyond my job duties because I care about students and making almost nothing for doing it."

Scheuermann could be one of the 29,000 staff and faculty at the 23 Cal State University campuses that walk out of the classroom if the CFA can't come to an agreement with CSU.

The union's not budging on its request for a 12% increase for employees this year. They rejected Cal State's offer of 12% over three years and then declared an impasse when the system countered with 5% this year.

“To ask us to cut back while administration is giving themselves raises and hiring more administration that aren’t in the classroom helping students, it rings hollow," SDSU Professor Jochen Kressler, Ph.D., said.

Dr. Kressler teaches summer school to help supplement his income.

Meanwhile, this summer during negotiations, the Cal State Board of Trustees voted to give new chancellor Mildred Garcia a base salary of $795,000. That's about a $170,000 increase over the previous chancellor.

Like him, Garcia is also getting a car allowance plus a monthly housing stipend of about $8,000 every month.

“The only reason I’m able to afford a house is because of my privilege and background,” said Schuermann. “The fact that my family gave me money as an inheritance for a down payment."

Interim Chancellor Jolene Koester addressed negotiations in a recent YouTube video, thanking faculty for the magic they do with students and saying the system is committed to fairly compensating faculty and staff.

“I must however share if we extend ourselves further, each of the 23 universities will be put in a position where they’re forced to make difficult and painful decisions. We’ll have to reallocate already limited financial resources to meet increased costs," said Chancellor Koester.

That warning isn't sitting well with the faculty and staff at SDSU.

“It’s frustrating, denigrating, disrespectful,” Schuermann said. “It doesn't feel good to be told through budget you're not valued, you're replaceable and your work is not valued here."

“We want to be there for our students and teach our students. We can’t do that if we’re on strike, but at some point we have to say enough is enough,” said Dr. Kessler.

There's still a process both sides have to go through, with no deadline yet, before a strike can happen.

For now, a state-appointed third party will help both sides try and come to an agreement. If that doesn't work, it goes to a fact-finding panel, which can make settlement recommendations. After that, the union can vote to strike.

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