California State University Faculty Reach Tentative Contract Agreement and Will End Strike

Michele Bartlett, a professor in the social work department, pickets outside the Cal State Northridge campus Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024, in Northridge, Calif.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California State university faculty members reached a tentative contract agreement Monday, the same day that nearly 30,000 professors, librarians, coaches and other workers struck at the nation’s largest public university system, their union announced.

Members of the California Faculty Association will return to work Tuesday instead of continuing their planned weeklong walkout to demand higher wages, the California Faculty Association said in a statement.

The deal, which still needs to be ratified by the union members, “reflects the solidarity displayed by faculty, staff, and students across all 23 campuses,” the association statement said. “To all the hard-working faculty who have been organizing on the street and on campus, your efforts have earned this victory.”

CSU Chancellor Mildred García also praised the agreement.

“I am extremely pleased and deeply appreciative that we have reached common ground with CFA that will end the strike immediately,” García 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.”

The systemwide work stoppage came two weeks after CSU officials ended contract negotiations with a unilateral offer starting with a 5% pay raise this year, effective Jan. 31, far below the 12% hike that the union was seeking.

The tentative agreement calls for a 5% raise retroactive to last year and another 5% raise on July 1. It also increases the minimum wage for the lowest-paid faculty, according to the union statement.

The strike came as the new CSU semester began and classes for many of the system’s 450,000 students could have been canceled if faculty members refused to cross picket lines.

The California Faculty Association represents roughly 29,000 workers. Another 1,100 CSU plumbers, electricians and other skilled trades workers represented by the Teamsters Local 2010 were set to join the strike but reached an agreement with the university late Friday.

Some students on Monday joined the picket lines to show their support.

Cal State Long Beach student Gabriela Alvarez said she joined the demonstration outside the university to support her professors and to reject tuition hikes that will start this fall.

“It’s important for our professors to be treated right, we need more student resources here, we’re trying to lower tuition prices,” Alvarez said.

“I’m not going to be able to afford next semester if they go through with the tuition spikes,” she added.

In December, CFA members staged one-day walkouts on four campuses in Los Angeles, Pomona, Sacramento and San Francisco to press for higher pay, more manageable workloads and increased parental leave.

The union said the university has money in its “flush reserve accounts” and could afford the salary increases with funds from operating cash surpluses and the $766 million CSU has in emergency reserves.

Leora Freedman, CSU’s vice chancellor for human resources, said Friday those reserve funds cannot be tapped for wage hikes because they are meant for times of economic uncertainty or emergencies, including wildfires or earthquakes.

The past year has seen lots of labor activity in the country as health care professionals, Hollywood actors and writers and auto workers picketed for better pay and working conditions.

In California, new laws have granted workers more paid sick leave as well as increased wages for health care and fast food workers.

In 2022, teaching assistants and graduate student workers in the University of California System went on strike for a month, disrupting classes as the fall semester came to a close.