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Cal State University faculty reach tentative contract deal, will end strike

People in red raincoats protest under the rain, holding signs for a 21% raise by the California Faculty Association.
California Faculty Association members rally and picket outside San Francisco State University on Monday. | Source: Eric Risberg/AP Photo

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

Nearly 30,000 professors, librarians, coaches and other workers across Cal State, the largest public university system in the U.S., walked off the job Monday in a weeklong strike to demand higher wages.

The stoppage across Cal State's 23 campuses 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 union said the tentative agreement included a 5% salary increase for all faculty retroactive to July 1, 2023, and a 5% salary increase for all faculty on July 1 this year. The deal also includes raising the salary floor for the lowest-paid faculty and increasing paid parental leave from six to 10 weeks.

With the new semester beginning Monday, classes for many of the system's 450,000 students were threatened with cancellation.

Victoria Wilson, a part-time political science lecturer who picketed in the rain at Cal State Northridge in Los Angeles, said she was striking for higher pay. She said her salary fluctuates from semester to semester.

"We're just hoping for a better contract to ensure better pay and also the working conditions here on campus," Wilson said before the deal was announced.

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 had been 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."

Cal State Chancellor Mildred García said Friday in a video call with journalists that the university system had sought to avoid a strike but the union's salary demands were not viable. "We must work within our financial reality," she said.

In December, union 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.

Cal State Los Angeles student Katerina Navarro said she supports the strike. Monday was the first day of classes in her nursing program, and she was surprised her classes were not canceled.

"Some more money needs to be invested in salaries and educational resources because people in education are severely underpaid for the work they do," said Navarro. Both her mother and sister are teachers.

The past year has seen significant 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.