Tattoos and union blues hit Chico State

Faculty union leaders were out to get student support for a possible strike last week, and it wasn’t just with their “Stand Up for the CSU” temporary tattoos.

The president of the systemwide California Faculty Association, Susan Meisenhelder, made Chico State University’s Selvester’s Café a tour stop Feb. 6, as union members and students gathered to hear more about the teachers’ stalled contract negotiations with the CSU and the possibility that it could lead to short-term walk-outs, withheld grades and picketing.

In an interview with the News & Review, Meisenhelder said the union is still considering “how to balance the need to make a strong statement” with the desire to avoid harming students’ educations.

Legally, CFA can’t take any action until the contract expires at the end of February. A three-member fact-finding panel is scheduled to meet Feb. 13-15.

Meisenhelder acknowledged that it’s become almost de rigueur in recent years for the union and CSU to go from impasse to mediation to an imposed contract. But now, she said, “it has reached a head.”

She predicted that Chico State is in a good position to protest because “there’s a stronger sense of community among the faculty,” and the residential school is very visible in town.

At the Chico event, Meisenhelder spoke about several “trends” in the CSU, such as a higher percentage of high-paid administrators while permanent faculty positions go unfilled and the schools rely on cheaper lecturers with little job stability and no health benefits.

That means it’s harder for students—who have increased in number—to get the classes they need, and when they do, the classes are often crowded. Meisenhelder told the crowd these are the union’s real issues, not salary, as they’ve already agreed to a modest 2-percent raise.

The CSU administration counters that CFA is being unreasonable, having refused the 2-percent raise other bargaining groups agreed to and asking for other pay increases and benefits that would cost the system $13.3 million.