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CSU faculty votes to authorize 2-day strikes

Students walk on a California State University campus in this undated file photo.
May 2, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
California State University employees have voted to authorize a series of two-day strikes if a new contract cannot be reached.

The California Faculty Association announced Wednesday that nearly 95 percent of members voted in favor of the strike authorization.The union, which represents 24,000 professors, librarians, coaches and counselors, has proposed "rolling" strikes in which groups of campuses would go out on strike for two days each, one group following another.

Despite the vote, university spokesman Michael Uhlenkamp said talk of a strike is premature as bargaining is ongoing with talks scheduled for Thursday and Friday.

If the strike goes through, it will be the largest strike ever of university faculty in the United States.

The issue is over budget cuts. Teachers are concerned that university officials are cutting their class sizes and salaries due to a $650 million shortfall.

The 24,000 members of the California Faculty Association began voting April 16 after the two sides couldn't agree on a new contract. The association includes professors, counselors and other staff.

Also Wednesday, several students said they were planning a hunger strike to protest a recent 9-percent tuition hike for the next academic year. That is on top of the nearly 20-percent tuition hike over the last two years.

CSU officials say they have no choice but to make these cuts, saying higher education funding in California is at a 40-year low and the CSU and UC systems have both lost $970 million in state funding since 2008.

Tuesday, CSU officials met with lawmakers and said voters do not approve of a proposed tax hike. California would be spending more on prisons than on public education.

"We have seen a growing corrections' budget. Now it takes 9 to 10 percent of the budget, which is more than we spend on CSU and UC. I sometimes say we are more interested in prison stripes than we are on graduation gowns," said Dr. Jack Scott with California Community Colleges.

The last time CSU teachers staged a walkout was last fall at two campuses, which lasted just one day. If the current strike is approved, it would be over two days across all 23 campuses.

If the strikes go forward, it's unclear exactly when teachers will stage the walkout.

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