BY HANK REICHMAN
Since the AAUP-affiliated California Faculty Association (CFA) announced dates last week for a potential April strike at all 23 campuses of the California State University (CSU) system, support for the union’s demand for a 5% salary increase has been growing.
CFA President Jennifer Eagan has been hearing from large numbers of faculty throughout the CSU system: “I have been overwhelmed by the support of the CSU faculty for the CFA Board of Directors’ decision to conduct a 5-day strike on all 23 campuses.”
She said, “They know that all campuses going on strike at the same time sends a powerful message to CSU management that the we, the faculty, stand in solidarity with one another, with students, and with all Californians. “Of course, faculty would rather avert a strike. But, across the system, faculty also know that it’s time to stand up for themselves, to be repaid for past sacrifices from which we have yet to recover, and to restore some dignity to our colleagues. Faculty are really fired up and ready to go,” Eagan said.
“This is about more than salary; it is also about values,” Eagan added. “We are dedicated to protecting our students and public higher education. We’re also fighting to protect our profession and our livelihoods.”
As a student told a CFA member, “You can’t say you’re putting students first when you put our teachers last.”
More than 30 state legislators have sent letters to CSU Chancellor White calling on him to come to an agreement with the faculty on our pay.
San Jose-area Assemblymember Evan Low made the call even stronger when he learned of the impending CSU faculty strike, wrote: “As a graduate of the CSU, I understand the value of quality education and the importance of having good faculty in the classroom. The faculty has been an essential part of producing educated members and future leaders of Silicon Valley and California. Low added, “But time and time again, the CSU failed to support their faculty with adequate resources and incentives to keep them on their campuses and in California. It is my hope that the CSU will finally side with the faculty and find a resolution before the impending strike. I proudly stand with the CSU faculty in their ‘Fight for Five.’”
Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell, chair of the State Assembly’s Education Committee, called on the CSU administration to “provide equitable compensation” for CSU faculty, “Maintaining California’s reputation as a global leader in higher education can only be achieved by attracting and retaining talented faculty for our campuses,” he wrote. “As a teacher and Chair of the Assembly Education Committee, I stand in strong support of the ‘Fight for Five’ campaign to ensure California’s students are mentored by the best and brightest. California needs one million more college degrees by 2030 and we cannot reach that goal without the dedicated faculty of the CSU.”
State Senator Dr. Richard Pan, issued a new statement this week, as well. Dr. Pan is a former UC Davis faculty member who knows about “the vital role that the faculty has in not only teaching and mentoring students, but in the success of our overall communities,” he wrote. “While state funding and student fees have changed over the past decade, CSU faculty salaries have remained basically flat. It is imperative that our faculty, who are in the classrooms and laboratories, have the support of the administration to ensure our students receive a quality education. I urge a speedy and fair resolution that honors the core mission of the university system in educating the next generation of Californians.”
Assembly member Cheryl R. Brown, who represents the San Bernardino area, is a CSU graduate herself. She announced, “I am extremely supportive of [the CSU’s] students and faculty. In order to recruit and retain the best educators for our universities it is imperative that their compensation reflect the tremendous contribution they make to our higher education system. It is my hope and expectation that the CSU faculty and administration will reach a timely agreement that fairly compensates faculty and preserves students’ access to a quality education.”
CSU faculty also received a little impromptu support for the Fight for Five from some big names in the sports world. On February 10, CSU East Bay’s Center for Sport and Social Justice hosted “The Olympics & the Politics of Resistance: An Evening with Olympians and Civil Rights Activists John Carlos and Wyomia Tyus in conversation with award-winning journalist Dave Zirin.”
John Carlos, the bronze medal winner in the 200 meters at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, with Tommie Smith became a part of the protest of raised gloved fists during the medal ceremony. A San Jose State alum, Carlos was a part of the “Speed City” group of runners that led San Jose State to its first NCAA championship in 1969. Wyomia Tyus, who ran with the Tennessee State Tigerbelles, won gold medals in 100 meters in the ’64 and ’68 Olympics, and another gold in the relay. In ’68, she dedicated her two medals to Carlos and Smith in an act of solidarity. Dave Zirin is author of eight books and sports editor for The Nation.
Zirin wore a CFA “Fight for Five” button throughout his day on campus, and Carlos appropriately wore a CFA button with the raised fist throughout the talk. Tyus affirmed her support during the talk.
Dave Zirin, reflected on a quote from John Carlos: “You have to stand up and organize where you are.” Zirin said, “I think about Oakland and the Bay and…what does it mean to take the legacy of Wyomia Tyus and John Carlos here. That means standing for justice for Mario Woods, that means standing for justice for the homeless who are displaced in the Bay Area.”
“And,” he said, “that definitely means right here on this campus standing with your professors and their push for economic justice.”