(LOS ANGELES) — Nearly 30,000 professors, librarians and other employees in the California State University system are set to launch a five-day strike on Monday, potentially canceling classes for hundreds of thousands of students over the first week of the spring semester.
The worker protest follows months-long contract negotiations centered on pay increases and other workplace improvements for employees at the nation’s largest public university system, which serves about 460,000 students spread across 23 campuses.
Faculty members have demanded a 12% pay hike, a higher minimum salary and longer parental leave, among other demands, Charles Toombs, president of the California Faculty Association and a professor at San Diego State University, told ABC News.
“We need to be paid for the tremendous work we do to make the California State University System a great system,” Toombs told ABC News.
It remains unclear how many members will participate in the strike and, in turn, the extent of disruption for campus activities.
“I expect most of the classes on every campus to be canceled,” Toombs said, speaking on the phone as he picketed in the rain in San Diego on Monday. “There may be some individual faculty members who hold classes anyway but the majority of members are in favor of a strike.”
Ninety-five percent of union members voted in October to authorize a strike, after CSU stood by its offer of a 5% pay increase for faculty to go into effect on Jan. 31.
Last month, some faculty participated in one-day strikes at four CSU campuses in response to the standoff.
CSU did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
In a previous statement, Leora Freedman, the CSU’s vice chancellor for human resources, said the university system was forced to step aside from negotiations due to union intransigence.
“We have been in the bargaining process for eight months and the California Faculty Association has shown no movement, leaving us no other option,” Freedman told The Mercury News.
Toombs expressed optimism that the strike would help bring about an agreement this week.
If the two sides fail to reach a deal, however, the union would consider other labor actions, such as rolling strikes across different campuses or a request that faculty fulfill only the minimum amount of work.
“Nothing has been decided,” Toombs said. “Hopefully we’ll have a deal.”
On Friday, CSU reached a tentative contract agreement with more than 1,000 plumbers, electricians and other skilled trade workers who had otherwise planned to participate in the strike this week.
The tentative deal included guaranteed annual salary increases and the return of a salary-step system that codifies promotions, according to a statement from Teamsters Local 2010, which represents the workers.
“We achieved this historic agreement by standing together as Teamsters — and in solidarity with our sister Unions at CSU — to take powerful action like CSU has never seen before,” Teamsters Local 2010 Secretary-Treasurer Jason Rabinowitz said in a statement on Friday, encouraging union members to join the picket lines in support of striking faculty.
In a statement, CSU Chancellor Mildred García applauded the agreement.
“The work of our Teamsters-represented employees is invaluable, providing our students with an environment that supports their success,” García said.
“I am thankful and appreciative that we have been able to arrive at a fiscally sustainable agreement that fairly compensates them for their skilled and dedicated work,” she added.
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