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California State University faculty members demand raises, stage 1-day strike

November 17, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Hundreds of California State University faculty members staged a strike Thursday, demanding a raise they say they were promised.

The California Faculty Association, which represents about 23,000 professors, lecturers, coaches, counselors and librarians, voted last week to authorize a one-day strike at the East Bay and Dominguez Hills campuses. The two striking campuses each have about 700 faculty members.

This marks the first faculty walkout in the history of the 23-campus system.

Earlier this month, the faculty at the Dominguez Hills campus handed out fliers to students and others alerting them about the strike, which is all about pay. Faculty members said they were promised pay increases in their contract, but they're not getting it because of the on-going budget crisis.

They say the problem is that the trustees are handing out raises to executives. They say if there's enough money for raises for the higher ups, they should get raises as well.

"The chancellor refuses to settle. He's said zero, zero, zero all the time. Meanwhile, he's giving out raises to top executives. He's been giving raises to managers. You know, we're talking about a very small amount for our lowest paid faculty," said Alice Sunshine with the California Faculty Association.

Faculty members on the East Bay and Dominguez Hills campuses have the right to strike but will lose a day's pay if they don't show up for work, administrators said.

Some students joined the picket lines to support the faculty.

"They're putting money at places where we're not seeing it as students. It seems like it's going more into their pockets than it is to the students and the teachers," said student Denise Martin.

If there is one recent hire that makes the case for demonstrators, it's the hiring of the new president of San Diego State University. He makes $400,000 a year, which is more than what the previous president made.

The chancellor's office maintains that it needs to pay top executives a lot to get the best talent. They say that despite the tough economic times, school faculty has received some increases in wages.

"The faculty union has gotten the most of any of our employee groups, about $60 million in the last three years," said Cal States spokesperson Claudia Keith.

Thursday's demonstration comes one day after the board of trustees voted to raise the tuition by 9 percent on Wednesday. The vote led to a violent outburst on the Long State campus.

The glass doors of the meeting building shattered as protesters pulled on one side and police pulled on the other side. Several demonstrators were taken into custody.

The increase will push yearly tuition for the Cal State system to around $6,000 starting next year.

"It's preposterous. I mean, the way they're doing it, they're devaluing education," said student David Turner.

Robert Turnage, the school's assistant chancellor, said much of the anger is misplaced.

"It needs to be directed towards the people who actually have decision making power over taxes," said Turnage.

Wednesday's vote to raise tuition is being questioned by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who said the vote was taken without the public being present. He wants the board to vote again on the measure.

Meanwhile at Cal State, Fullerton, students are setting up tents in protest of the tuition hike.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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