Thousands Of California State University Workers Launch Massive Strike

Faculty members at the country's largest public university system say they're owed better pay, longer parental leave and other workplace improvements.

The California Faculty Association (CFA), a union representing nearly 30,000 of the state’s public university staff, has launched a weeklong strike over demands for better salaries and other improvements to working conditions.

Instructional faculty, librarians, counselors and coaches walked off from all 23 California State University (CSU) campuses ― the nation’s biggest public university system with around 460,000 students ― on Monday after negotiations with CSU management fell apart last month. Members picketed outside campuses despite heavy rain throughout the state.

Members of the faculty union at Cal State Los Angeles picket on Monday.
Members of the faculty union at Cal State Los Angeles picket on Monday.
Jay L. Clendenin via Getty Images

“They seem reassured that we will eventually surrender to our dismal working conditions, paltry wages, inadequate parental leave, shortage of counseling faculty, lack of gender inclusive restrooms, and a host of other injustices that plague the CSU system,” the CFA said of management in a statement last month announcing the strike authorization.

Faculty members will not only refrain from teaching through Friday, but they will also not do any grading, answer work emails or perform any of the other tasks associated with their jobs.

Among the union’s demands are an increase in salaries for all faculty by 12%, a minimum base salary of $64,360 for full-time staff, an increase in paid parental leave from 30 days to a minimum of one semester or two academic quarters, lowering the student-to-counselor staffing ratios, limiting police action on campus, and more gender-inclusive facilities.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was among the prominent figures to speak out in support of the CFA’s demands. “For years these workers have been denied job stability and fair pay,” he posted Monday on X, formerly known as Twitter.

When reached for comment, CSU management said the union’s pay demands were untenable.

“The CFA’s demand for a 12% raise would cost $312 million just this year,” the statement said. “Their other economic demands, such as life insurance increases and raising the minimum pay add up to another $68 million, for a total of $380. This is financially unrealistic. Their request far surpasses the state funding increase that the CSU received in last year’s state budget ($227 million) and is more than the entire budget of Cal Poly Pomona ($369 million).”

CSU management said it had offered faculty a 5% raise each year for three years and 10 more days of paid parental leave.

Striking faculty picket at Cal State Long Beach on Monday.
Striking faculty picket at Cal State Long Beach on Monday.
MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images via Getty Images

But the CFA points to the CSU system’s near $8 billion reserve fund, up from $2 billion in 2006, as proof that management can afford what its members are asking for.

This week’s system-wide strike follows a one-day work stoppage faculty held last month at the four largest CSU campuses: Cal Poly Pomona, San Francisco State, Cal State Los Angeles and Sacramento State.

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