University professors across California say they are ready to go on strike.
California State University faculty members across the state voted Wednesday to authorize a strike if contract negotiations with the university don’t result in a better deal, union officials said.
More than 94 percent of California Faculty Association members on the university's 23 campuses voted to authorize a strike, according to the union.
The strike authorization vote, which took place between Oct. 19 and 28, came after the CSU board rejected the union’s demands. The faculty wants a 5 percent raise and the CSU system is offering 2 percent.
California Faculty Association officials argue 2 percent is not enough to support the high cost of living in places such as the Bay Area. CSU expenditures on faculty salaries have remained flat for the past 10 years, according to the union.
CSU Chancellor Timothy White said Wednesday he can’t comment on the negotiations, but said the university system is still suffering from the residual effects of the recession. "The recognition, just like you at home, is we have to live within our means," he said.
Stuck in the middle of this fight are the CSU system’s 460,000 students.
"I wasn’t expecting this to happen," said Marissa McAfee, a freshman at San Jose State. "This being my first year, I didn’t realize I’d be caught up in some political bull."
Speaking at San Jose State University Wednesday, Union President Jennifer Eagan said the union was ready to act "if necessary and for as long as it takes."
"This fight is about the bread and butter issue of salary, but that's not all," Eagan said in a statement. "The vision of what the CSU is, who it serves and what it can be in the future is at stake."
CSU spokeswoman Toni Molle said in a statement Wednesday that the university's proposed salary increase would cost a total of $32.8 million, while the union proposal would cost a total of $101.7 million. Adding in "me too" clauses for other bargaining groups would bring that total to $108 million.
Molle said that faculty were the only group to receive pay increases during the recession years, but that the university also has to address other priorities including enrollment growth, facility improvements and repairs, technology upgrades and student services and programs.
"The CSU remains committed to the collective bargaining process and reaching a negotiated agreement with the California Faculty Association," Molle said in a statement.
"A strike would not be in the best interest of our students," Molle said.
Eagan said the union plans a march and rally at the Chancellor's Office in Long Beach on Nov. 17, the date of the CSU board's next public meeting.
Contract talks began last May and are now in a stage known as fact-finding, in which a neutral third party is chosen to hear both sides and write a fact-finding report, union officials said. If the two sides fail to reach an agreement as a result of that process, the chancellor has the power to impose his "last, best offer" and the union has the right to strike.
Molle said fact-finding hearings are scheduled for Nov. 23 and Dec. 7.
Bay City News contributed to this report.