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Cal State, California Faculty Association reach tentative labor agreement


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Dive Brief:

  • The California State University system and a union representing about 29,000 of its employees reached a tentative agreement late Monday night, ending one of the biggest higher education strikes in U.S. history.
  • The deal would give members a retroactive 5% salary increase for the current fiscal year, with another 5% bump to come next year, according to the California Faculty Association. It would also up the salary floor for the lowest paid faculty members by $3,000 in each of those fiscal years and raise the university’s paid parental leave from six to 10 weeks.
  • CFA’s members — faculty and staff, including coaches, counselors and librarians — returned to work Tuesday, ending a planned week-long strike after just one day. The union said members will vote to ratify the deal in the coming weeks.

Dive Insight:

The tentative deal comes after months of protracted negotiations, during which the university system and CFA remained consistently apart on issues of pay, parental leave and campus facilities. Cal State is one of the country’s largest public college systems, with roughly 458,000 students across 23 campuses. 

The union sought a 12% salary increase for the 2023-24 academic year. In turn, Cal State offered 5% pay bumps in each of the next three years.

Each side offered few concessions, and they hit a bargaining impasse in August. An independent factfinder made recommendations, including one for a systemwide salary increase of 7% for the current year. Both sides rejected the suggestion.

Earlier this month, Cal State ended the contract negotiations with the same 5% offer it had previously made. CFA had already authorized and planned a five-day strike for the beginning of the spring semester if the two sides couldn’t reach an agreement.

“At the bargaining table, CSU management did not take our proposals seriously until CFA members were willing to withhold our labor,” the union said in a statement Monday.

In early December, CFA staged one-day walkouts at four Cal State campuses to demonstrate its members’ willingness to strike.

“The collective action of so many lecturers, professors, counselors, librarians, and coaches over these last eight months forced CSU management to take our demands seriously,” Charles Toombs, president of CFA, said in a statement. “This Tentative Agreement makes major gains for all faculty at the CSU.”

CFA said the tentative agreement would improve access to gender-inclusive restrooms and lactation spaces, though it did not provide additional details Tuesday. The union had previously sought to have lactation facilities and a gender-neutral bathroom in each building on campus, initiatives that Cal State officials called too expensive and impractical to implement.

The deal would also include 10 weeks of paid parental leave, a compromise between Cal State’s last offer of eight weeks and the union’s desire for a full semester.

​“I am extremely pleased and deeply appreciative that we have reached common ground with CFA that will end the strike immediately,” Mildred García, chancellor of Cal State, said in a statement. “The agreement enables the CSU to fairly compensate its valued, world-class faculty while protecting the university system’s long-term financial sustainability.”

Approval of the tentative deal could help avoid triggering copycat provisions in other Cal State labor agreements.

Other unions representing Cal State employees reached agreements with the system last year that left room to return to the negotiating table if another union secured a higher annual pay raise for its members.

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