Frustrated by continued cuts to the California State University system, faculty at San Francisco State and the system’s other 22 campuses have spent the past two weeks voting on whether to authorize a series of two-day strikes in May.
Local union officials say they are confident the majority of members will have cast their ballots for the strike when voting wraps up today.
“We don’t want to strike, but we will if we have to,” said Philip Klasky, a lecturer in the American Indian Studies Department and a member of the executive board of San Francisco State’s chapter of the California Faculty Association.
Negotiations between the union and CSU have been going on for nearly two years. Klasky said union leaders were hopeful a strike could be avoided, but that the vote would send a message to CSU officials as the two sides wrangle over a contract.
The union is pushing for salary increases and more favorable work rules for instructors, and it points to recent pay raises for administrators as a sign that CSU leadership is mismanaging its finances.
Mike Uhlenkamp, a CSU spokesman, said that officials were optimistic that the strike would not happen.
“We’re hoping that it obviously doesn’t come to that,” he said. “We’ve always maintained the position that we want to reach a negotiated agreement.”
Although students are the group most likely to be inconvenienced by a strike, the union’s complaints resonate with young people who have been hit by tuition hikes and budget cuts over the past several years.
“Teachers are stressed, they’re not paid enough and that impacts our education,” said SFSU pre-med senior Sadaf Malik, a member of Students for Quality Education, which formed four years ago to advocate for education funding. “When students stand with faculty, it’s a unified message that these decisions affect all of us.”
The idea of a strike has also been cheered by Occupy SFSU, the campus affiliate of Occupy Wall Street.
“What they’re fighting for benefits us as well,” said Occupy spokesman Lalo Gonzalez, a senior majoring in criminal justice.
Klasky said the union expects to announce the result of the strike vote Wednesday. Meanwhile, university officials said they would return to the bargaining table next week.