Fall 2014 Convocation Speech

"Welcome to the Faculty from CFA:
Ongoing contract negotiations make for an unsettled start to the new academic year"

Elaine Newman
Chapter President, California Faculty Assocation

Fall 2014 Speakers
August 18, 2014

Ruben Armiñana
President

Andrew Rogerson
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Richard Senghas
Chair of the Faculty

Elaine Newman
Chapter President, California Faculty Association

Anthony Gallino
Associated Students President

Katie Musick
Staff Representative to the Academic Senate

Katie MusickWelcome everybody. Thank you for giving me your attention for a few minutes at time when you are crazy with preparations for the coming semester. We have quite the semester ahead of us! As you might have noticed, I am not Andy. Have no fear however, we are lucky that he remains as head of our statewide bargaining committee. He is not here today because he is busy bargaining!

Since this is a year where you will have lots of questions about a possible contract, and since we are heading for a semester where we’ll have to fight hard for a fair contract, I thought you should know who the members of your union’s executive board are. You may have noticed that there are many new faces in your union’s leadership. A few of them are in the audience today. I feel lucky to have such a great team working with me this year. We have a mix of experience and youth!

Ellen Carlton in Kinesiology and Duane Dove from Business form our go-to team for any of your faculty rights problems and questions. Do you need help from the union or feel you have a grievance? …See Duane or Ellen.

Birch Moonwomon is your lecturer representative on the board. She has been successfully organizing Nuts and Bolts workshops for all lecturer questions.

Napoleon Reyes from Criminology & Criminal Justice Studies is our new Junior Faculty representative. He sits on our board to bring special attention to the needs of junior faculty, and will be organizing workshops around RTP and other issues this year.

Erma Jean Sims, in the school of Education, continues to serve as our highly effective chair of CFA’s Affirmative Action Committee. She is organizing the “Journey into Change: An Unconscious Bias” workshop on Sept 12. I encourage you to look for the invite in your email and register for the workshop.

Tom Targett (Physics and Astronomy) is our new delegate at large to the CFA statewide assembly. Carmen Works (Chemistry) is our VP, Vincent Richman (Business) our Treasurer, and David McCuan (Poli Sci) our Secretary. Together they will be the core activist organizers for our contract actions in the coming semester.

Sue Pak is our labor representative. She works for CFA and helps us organize. If you haven’t met her, you will find her walking the halls with me this semester and at our various events. Sue is a lawyer and will also help with faculty rights issues.

Finally, on the way in you would have met Carissa Havemeyer, our office manager. She is the super glue that holds us together so that we can effectively function.

I’d also like to thank the efforts of all of you, our members. Today, thanks to a concerted membership drive last year, CFA is the strongest that we’ve ever been. Thank you for writing emails to the governor and legislature, for showing up to workshops for department chairs and lecturers, and for always being willing to volunteer your time for CFA events.

Now in an ordinary year, I would be able to take more time to speak to all of you in the crowd today, but I hope you can forgive me this year for tailoring my message to faculty. You may know we are in the midst of bargaining for a new contract. Our old contract was set to expire at the end of June, but has been extended through tomorrow. Your statewide bargaining team is hard at work today and tomorrow.

We hope that we will have a tentative agreement soon. The CSU proposal is a start that moves in the correct direction. But it is inadequate.

What are the main issues at stake? No surprise -- Salary and workload. For salary, all groups of faculty face huge problems after years of sacrifice. Except for the “cup-of-coffee” raise we got earlier this year, we haven’t received a raise since 2008. Some of you had never had a raise until you received promotion to associate professor. What a career, right?!

I’ll give the bad news first. Realistically, no matter how hard we fight, we can’t erase years of sacrifice and inequity in one contract. However, what the CSU has offered so far is not enough, and frankly offensive. Statewide, we need to solve at least 4 problems,

  • Salary stagnation: meaning no significant cost of living increases – what are called general salary increases, for about seven years
  • Inability to progress through the ranks: Normally, people hired should be able to expect adjustments in salary at regular and predictable intervals until they reach a maximum salary within their rank or range. These are what we call salary step increases and they have not been paid for seven years.
  • Inversion and compression of salaries, and
  • Misclassification of lecturers.

The CSU proposal barely addresses stagnation and inversion/compression, and does nothing else. They say “we’re broke! there’s no more money”, but we know the money is there.

State funding support is increasing, although not as fast as we know the CSU needs. Nevertheless, we can advocate for the CSU this year with greater hope for recovery from very tough years of recession and from policies that set back public higher education in this state. What I want to emphasize more than anything this morning is that if we want a fair contract, a contract that begins to repair our salary structure, we will have to fight for it. And if we are going to be successful, we have to be unified, engaged, and active.

As a group we are not homogeneous. Assistant and associate professors face salary inversion. Full professors experience salary compression. We call these problems the “experience penalty”. Lecturers can’t move through the ranks because they never receive a salary step. Any inequities that were present at hire for women or faculty of color are never equalized because there have been no SSIs to reach the SSI max. If we are to be successful at solving these problems we have to work together to apply pressure. Each one of us has to think of the problems facing all classes of faculty.

So what is the difference between the CSU and CFA proposals? Management has proposed a pool of money amounting to 3% of payroll to address these issues in the first year of the next contract. They’ve offered less in successive years. Keep in mind that is NOT a 3% pay raise. It is a pool of money (that takes into account our benefits) from which various salary adjustments would be made to help to solve these problems. For more information on the details of both proposals, please come to our bargaining road show next Monday, Aug 25.

The difference between proposals (as of last week) amounts to approximately $15 million per year out of a budget of $4.6 billion. At Sonoma State, that is about $450,000 per year. We know the money is there. Our Senate Budget Subcommittee last year provided a thorough report to our Senate that compared Sonoma State to other comparable CSUs. They noted that last year SSU’s revenues were $4.2 million more than expenses. I encourage you to examine their report. There were some significant differences between us and other comparable CSUs. Additionally, the money our auxiliaries make can be used for general fund uses, such as salaries, hires, and professional development.

We’re standing in a lovely remodeled hall today – this was certainly a use for some of those discretionary dollars! We have great new buildings on campus. Can we get a great new contract?!

What the CSU and the campus presidents have to face is really a question of priorities. Many of the salary problems we face were created by behavior at the campus level. To what extent do we face these problems at Sonoma State?

  • Have we been “cheap” at hiring time – are our starting salaries low by comparison?
  • Did we ever give more than the “minimum” required raise at times of promotion?
  • Have we misclassified our lecturers, hiring lecturers with PhDs at class L, the lowest paid and meant for folks with bachelors degrees?

I don’t know the answers to these questions yet, but I have spent the summer looking at data. Your CFA chapter activists are helping and encouraging lecturers to ask for range elevations. I’ve made a request for information about the extent of misclassification of lecturers here. We are helping and encouraging tenure line faculty to ask for market raises. Currently I’m conducting a gender study of salaries at SSU.

Remember that though we all have different salary issues we are all in the same boat together. If we want a fair contract that will begin to set things right, we will have to fight together. We need solidarity, and we need action.

So again, it is a question of priorities. At the end of last semester, President Ruben Arminana announced 4 initiatives that would change priorities here at SSU. We’ve just heard details as to how he will implement some of these initiatives.

This is an important step in the right direction. However, take his commitment last Spring to funding salary inversions. I’ve met and spoken with him several times about following through; unfortunately the chancellor won’t allow the presidents to implement this provision of our current contract. But the money is there! Our CFO Larry Furukawa-Schlereth has identified the money. If the campuses had implemented this part of the equity program, we’d be a lot closer to a deal on a fair contract. I have repeatedly asked President Arminana to press for a solution to the equity problem with the chancellor’s office. Here is an opportunity for him to show leadership to the system.

In the next few months, people might ask you “isn’t this just about the money?”

Yes actually! We are regular people trying to pay our bills while our salaries haven’t kept up with inflation. It’s also a question of providing a competitive salary that allows us to attract and retain quality colleagues. In fact, student success depends on this! If we want good people in the classroom, inspiring people that our students can look up to as mentors, and creative people that are producing the research that contributes to the growth of California’s economy…then we need more money!

It’s also about workload. We’ll have another record large class of incoming freshman this year. And since we’ve done well in retaining students, the bubble of the last few years is hitting our upper division classes as well. How are we absorbing these students? A fair contract will address these issues of rising class size, rising advising and mentoring loads, and the corresponding email time. This ever-increasing workload is particularly hard for faculty in small departments or for those faculty with a role in working with traditionally underrepresented students.

As a colleague of mine stated last week: “we are presented with a Faustian bargain – maintaining our sanity or serving our students.”

With your help this year, we will get a fair contract--one that will begin to repair the problems of the last decade. It will require commitment by the chancellor and the campus presidents to find the money to give us a fair contract. It will also require a commitment from you!

First, if you are new or on the fence, act now and join the union. There is room for everyone, even if you don’t always agree. We need your support, your ideas, and your point of view.

Please keep an eye on your email for updates. We’ll be reaching out to you for various activities this semester. Next week Monday we’ll have our bargaining road show. Andy Merrifield will be here to give you specifics on the bargaining so far. Please come. Bring your energy and enthusiasm, your willingness to act. We have to be unified in order to get a fair contract. We have to be unified to apply pressure to get the CSU to do the right thing.