A Path Forward on the Negotiation of a CFA-CSU Contract

Current inflation is 8.5%, but our increase is only 3%.

First of all, I do not have a degree is Labor Studies and all of my understanding about contracts comes from my 45 years as an educator. I hope that some people will respond to this post and inform me about ways that my thinking can be improved. I also want to say that the CSU-CFA contract is unique and probably different from other negotiation settings.

So over the last 24 years, I have noticed a similar tactic by the CSU. The CSU administration comes in unprepared when negotiations start and for the first 18 months. They discuss several of the less important issues. They always come in with low ball offers and essentially very little change. That period lasts about 22 months. During that time the negotiating team reports to the CFA members frustration at the CSU indifference and lack of a decent offer. During the last 6 months of that 22 month period, the mediator will find that the CSU offer is too low and the faculty continue to work without a contract. At that point the faculty are allowed by law to do a job action such as rotating strikes on different campuses or eventually declare a date that the CFA will strike. So in this last contract, the CSU offered of 2% Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA) total over 3 years.

  1. In the 2020-2021 year we received $3500 COVID money that was not added to the base pay. That’s like nothing because we were owed that from the federal government already. The money flowed through the state. That should have been on top of COLA. Police got it. Doctors and nurses got it. Schools, the unemployed, and small businesses got it. California received $14,000 per capita. Professors got $3500 and no COLA. Since the $3500 is not added to the base pay, it does not increase the future earnings. So if you are 35 years old and will work for another 30 years, retire at 65 and then live off your pension for 30 years until 95 years old, that $3500 averages out to $58 dollars per year. So nothing. And we will have to pay taxes on the increased national debt that is generated by COVID. However, if the CSU were to have offered 1% COLA for an $80,000 salary, that equals $800 per year for a total of $48,000 over 60 years. During that year, inflation was 2% so a normal COLA would be $96,000. $96,000 vs. $3500. We got scammed. (I know the math is not perfect.) The path forward is recover that 2% in the next negotiations.
  2. In the 2021-2022 year, we received 4% and the inflation at that time was 5.7%. Now it’s 8.5%. So we lost between 2.7% and 4.5% adjusted for inflation. Step increases are something workers get for longevity so they should not be calculated in the increase. No increases were given for those who have gone through their steps. Also, those promoted would receive 9% increase. That used to be 7%. That happens once or twice in a career. The path forward is to recover the 3% or 4% lost to inflation.
  3. We will get 3% this year (2022-2023), but inflation is 8.5%. The path forward to to recover the 5.5% in the next negotiations.
  4. In 2023-2024, negotiations will open up again and you can expect the CSU to stall for the first 18 months giving a low ball offer. It’s what they always do. The problem is that since we are under contract until 5/2024 and so we have no leverage to impose job actions. Mediation might start in November of 2024. Without a contract, the CFA will hurry to accept any offer to “put money in the hands of the professors.” The other problem is that the state budget will be drastically down because the state will lose all of the federal COVID money. Professors will look at that and deduct that the state has a tight budget. We need to tighten our belts as well and accept less. In February of 2025, the CSU will offer something and we will take it. No. Let’s not do that. The path forward is to insist on a 11.5% increase that we lost due to inflation over the during the first 3 years of the contract. Then ask for COLA for the 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 year.

So, this path forward does not compensate professors for the 17% we lost to inflation in the previous 20 years; however, it does help professors afford cost of living increase in housing, food, childcare, vehicules, and other costs. We don’t want more money. We just want to keep up with inflation.

More of the path forward.

OK now how to do that. First of all, the CFA representative have to stop intimidating professors who have a diverse point of view. Let’s allow for freedom of thought without intimidation. If you have an argument, make it! No personal attacks. I am not some kind of negative person or angry. I just want a fair contract that is adjusted for inflation.

Paid CFA representatives should take on one additional university and more money needs to be spent on a statistic person who points out the historical inequity of salaries between:

  1. the CSU administration and the professors,
  2. the cost of living in California, stories of assistant professors and their struggle,
  3. the difference between other public employees in California with a Ph.D
  4. and our current pay, and the difference between other private employees in California with a Ph.D. and our current pay.

Then we need someone who can do design and marketing to get information out to our professors and the public in general in easy to understand ways. Right now, professors are trusting the CFA (bad idea) and attracted to shiny objects instead of solid arguments. We also have to find a way to let different perspectives on the contract to be heard. Currently, the CFA is the only organization that puts out information and then they do not allow others to see the email addresses of other faculty members in their own college, university or other universities. My mother left East Germany when only one point of view was allowed. We pay a lot of money in dues and the services we get from the CFA are inadequate.

Also, we have to stop whining about how bad the CSU is. They are just doing their job in negotiations. Now let’s do our job. As long as we accept their bad offers, it’s our own fault.

You want social equity? This is the path forward.

P.S. I expect that the CSU and CFA will try to suppress these ideas. We need to get them out. So please respond to these ideas by adding or by pointing out fallacies of logic.

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