Raising hell

Sacramento State students and faculty join strike over California State University back pay

A battle over back pay has prompted strikes at some California State University campuses on Thursday.

The fight is over unpaid raises for coaches, counselors, librarians and professors in the 23-campus system, raises agreed to by the faculty union and CSU administration four years ago.

Mike Uhlenkamp, spokesman for the CSU chancellor’s office, said state spending cuts have put the raises in doubt.

“There’s a phrase for that,” said Kevin Wehr, a sociology professor at Sacramento State and a member of the bargaining team for the California Faculty Association. “I call it wage theft.”

Wehr and the CFA—whose members voted overwhelmingly to support a one-day strike—say that during CSU Chancellor Charles Reed’s tenure, CSU management salaries have been rising while faculty pay fell.

According to the CFA, over the past 13 years CSU campus presidents’ average weekly salaries rose 23 percent, when adjusted for inflation. Average student fees and tuition soared 106 percent. The average weekly salary for full-time CSU faculty fell 10 percent from 1998 to 2008, the last year that they received raises.

Across the CSU system, the CFA last week held informational pickets. Sacramento State faculty picketed on J Street last week and have drawn support from local politicians such as Richard Pan, the Democratic representative for the Assembly’s 5th District.

Uhlenkamp said that the chancellor’s office is concerned about disruptions for students trying to attend classes during the one-day strike at CSU Dominguez Hills and East Bay.

But several Sacramento State students will be joining faculty at the strike on the East Bay campus in Hayward. Among them will be Amanda Mooers, 23, a graduating senior, sociology major and an organizer with the Sacramento State chapter of the CSU Students for Quality Education.

“I will be joining the strike because I feel that students and faculty are in the same boat,” she said. “Throughout my last two years at Sac State, I’ve seen my tuition double. And the Board of Trustees is voting on yet another fee increase.”

“I don’t believe the decision-makers in the CSU system have any intention of keeping it affordable for students,” Mooers said. “I believe it will take grassroots pressure from students, faculty, staff and our community to bring an end to the divestment from public higher education.”

Talks between the CFA and CSU are scheduled to continue on November 18.