Timing is Everything in CSU/CFA Negotiations – A Path Forward

Essentially negotiations start 18 months into the process.

Real negotiation starts when the CSU administration thinks the CFA has leverage. In the first 18 months of negotiation, without an impasse or threat of mediation, or job actions, the CSU will stall. So the path forward is to only expect progress after the two or three months after the impasse and set a date and prepare for job actions that increase in time and severity over the next 6 months or so. Don’t misunderstand. You have to poll members, plan a strategy, and set goals, but you most likely won’t see any progress until you have leverage. The idea behind the information and job actions campaign is that when the administration sees that the longer they stall, the more severe and frequent the job actions will be….and they will likely provide better offers earlier and then increase them as long as we hold out. But you can’t organize job actions until well after to the impasse.

Job actions should be creative and increasing in severity and frequency as time passes. Here’s an example:

  1. Starting with week 1, we don’t read or answer email and no meetings on Fridays until we get a contract. It’s our writing day and we have to focus.
  2. Starts week 3, rolling strike at one campus for one day. The next week two other campuses using different days. The following week, three other campuses.
  3. Starting week 6, no professor is available for meetings on any day.
  4. Starting week 8, our demand for increase in the General Salary Increase goes up 1% for every year negotiated for every week we go without contract.
  5. Week 9, professors are encouraged to teach remotely all classes unless there is a rolling strike that day. (You can teach up to 5 classes remotely in a face to face class.)
  6. Week 12, the rolling strike that has no classes one day a week, becomes no classes two different days a week.

And so on. If it’s planned in advance the administration will try to settle early. For faculty, it’s better to keep planning and waiting. So the time to plan has to happen fast because we are only allowed to plan a month or two after the impasse. So the example above is not what we plan to do. It’s meant only for illustration of what a plan of increased CFA expectations and actions might look like.

WHAT NOT TO DO ON THE PATH FORWARD

Don’t whine and complain that the administration has too many employees (they do), gets too much money (they do), or don’t respect faculty (well…). You can point it out and make fun of it, just don’t whine. They are in a ‘rich guy & gal’s club’ with the Trustees of the CSU. The trustees need the rock hard loyalty of the presidents and vice presidents. Other administrators are expected to be disinterested. It is essentially a bribe. I am not saying I am above it or that it’s not complicated. I’m just calling it what it is. If upper level administrators violate that loyalty rule, they will not stay for long and lower level administrators will not move up. Simple. Don’t ask for their loyalty. It’s like giving them administrator poison and saying, “if you love us, you will poison yourself.”

Don’t act unprofessionally. Dress professionally. T-shirts were always a bad idea. Do you wear t-shirts when you teach? Well, some people do and maybe it seems cool or counter-cultural to college students who are used to shirt and tie high school teachers. When you express your views, look good, look attractive. Have some dignity.

Secondly, don’t expect to have large crowds of people marching and chanting with you. This is the information age. Let’s get the message out with social media and with some comedy & creativity like the style of The Onion, John Oliver or Trevor Noah. Professors like well thought out arguments-not signs. Do not go into the president’s office with a sign. That implies bullying. That is not who we are.

Third, don’t be frustrated or upset at what the administration does unless it’s illegal or immoral. We are all adults and we know how this goes. Just remember those injustices and during the polling before negotiation describe what happened. Then set out out a very general plan for job actions. (You can’t plan or organize job actions until a month or two after the impasse.)

So the path forward, is to negotiate, but don’t expect the CSU to bring a good offer. Every negotiation is the same. The CSU stalls, gives low ball offers, and is “unprepared” to negotiate for the first 18 months. The purpose of that stalling is to reframe negotiations as starting a year later and thus not having to pay a cost of living increase that first year (like in our last contract). The second purpose is to make the faculty a little more frantic that we are not going to get a good contract (again, like in our last contract). Then when a little more is offered, then out of desperation, the faculty will accept that little increase (like this past year when we took the offer of 4% guaranteed COLA for 4 contract years when inflation was 5.7-7% and growing). Our strategy then was people are tired of waiting, let’s “put some money in their pockets.” We need to have patience and start the real negotiation when we have leverage. CFA describes the process here.

You probably have heard that in the next 8 months (March 2023?), the CFA will begin negotiations for the 2023-2024 part of our 4 year contract. Real negotiations will begin 18-20 months later. We need to declare an impasse as soon as possible. In November 2024, real negotiation will begin and we need to be thinking about cool job actions in the spring of 2025.

Prepare to be shocked!

So when administration low balls, arrives unprepared, and is not ready to discuss the different part of the contract, just pour your favorite drink in your coffee cup and relax. No meaningful negotiation will go on. If you want to read more about some failings of the last contract, read my previous posts in criticalliteries.net. Let’s not dwell on the past. Let’s learn from it. If there is any thing we learned from the past negotiations, it’s that we need to extend that time a month or two after impasse and use our leverage to get a better contract. That is the path forward.

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