Saturday, January 27, 2007

The California State University (CSU) and the California Faculty Association (CFA)

CFA represents the faculty who teach at the various CSU campuses. Every three years CFA and the CSU negotiate a contract. It is normally a contentious negotiation. This time around seems worse than usual. The two parties are at the final stages of the mandated negotiating process. CFA is about to ask its member for strike authority. As a faculty member I just received a letter from Charles B. Reed, Chancellor of the CSU. The letter says that
The CSU administration has put an unprecedented salary proposal on the bargaining table. …

If the CSU receives the funding … there will be a 24.87 percent increase in the unit employee pool over a 36 month period. … With … compounding the actual value of the CSU offer … will be 27 percent.
The implication, of course, is that the CSU is being immensely generous (9% a year for 3 years) and that for some reason beyond understanding CFA has rejected that offer.

You can probably guess from the weasel wording of Reed's letter why the CFA has not been overjoyed about the Chancellor's generosity. Most obviously, this is not an offer to commit to anything other than to hope that money will be available. Not only that, the so-called offer doesn't even say that faculty will get the money—just that if it is available it will be "in the unit employee pool," whatever that means. Nowhere does Reed say anything like "the CSU is offering its faculty a 9% across-the-board salary increase." He doesn't say that because that's not what the offer actually means. Yet that's what Reed apparently wants his readers to believe. In truth, Reed's letter is an intellectual fraud.

More significantly, not only does Reed make misleading assertions, he fails to talk to the real issues. Does he really think that CFA rejected the offer out of stubbornness or stupidity? If the CFA leadership turned down a 3 year 9%/year across-the-board salary increase, they would be out on their ears. CFA turned down Reed's offer because it was as dishonest as his letter. If Reed thinks that CFA's reasons for rejecting the offer don't make sense, there is a simple solution: explain why CFA is wrong about its interpretation of his offer.

Reed goes on to say
This proposal represents a commitment by the administration … to strive to bring the CSU faculty salaries up to the level of comparison institutions as soon as possible …
What kind of nonsense is that? Why does the CSU administration need the agreement of CFA to strive to achieve salary parity with comparable institutions? If CFA doesn't sign the contract does that mean that the CSU administration will continue to allow its faculty to be underpaid? Why does it want to do that? Why isn't it already striving to pay its faculty what they deserve?

Chancellor Reed, please do strive to bring faculty salaries up to the level of comparable institutions. You don't need a CFA contract or the permission of CFA to do that. All you need is a concern for the quality of the University for which you are responsible.

It's this kind of intellectual dishonesty that makes me most unhappy with CSU management. The essence of a University, its highest value, is intellectual honesty. If only the people who ran the University would live by that value.

There is a simple solution to this contract dispute, one that both CFA and the CSU administration say they favor. Bring CSU faculty salaries and working conditions in line with those of comparable institutions. It the CSU proposed a contract that achieved that result and that committed to keep salaries and working conditions at the levels of comparable institutions, I suspect that CFA would agree in a minute. It's really that simple.


george diehr said...

Great comments! As I have written, I would take the 27% offer in a heartbeat if it were real. I think John Travis has said the same. Problem is, it is much less than meets the eye.

First, there are the obvious contingencies on the money. The offer depends on 1%/year in augmentations. Without those increases, the compounded value falls to about 23.3%.

But let's be optimistic (OK: foolish) and assume that current faculty members actually received the average, compounded increase of 27%. Even if that happened, the unit 3 pool would increase by only about 20%. Furthermore, the current 18% CPEC gap would be reduced by only about 5%.

How can that be? How can faculty receive a 27% increase but the pool increases by only 20%?

The reason is because the CSU assumes that everyone one who is a faculty member today will still be here in 4 years: there will be no separations, no promotions, no replacement hires. They assume a static employee population.

Clearly, that assumption is nonsense. Higher paid full professors will retire. Their salaries fund newly promoted associates who replace them. Obviously, a lot of money is left over (and is removed from the pool). Promoted associates, in turn, are replaced by much lower-paid promoted assistants who are replaced by new hires. At each step, a significant amount of money is "skimmed" (scammed?) from the pool.

IF (!) faculty received SSIs without reduction of GSIs and IF the old PSSI and FMI increases, which are part of most retiree salaries, were recycled back into the salary pool, the (assumed) 27% increase would be realized in the pool. But those moneys are skimmed and fed back into the pool only at the cost of reduced GSIs.

It's quite a shell game and it's an old game. Not only are faculty mislead, but the taxpayer and the state government are defrauded.

Where are the CSU Trustees?

George Diehr

Donna Tillman said...

You have said it exactly right! This offer is a wolf in sheep's clothing. I detest dishonestly and was totally insulted by the letter from the Chancellor.

Some of us are retiring and what we have as a final salary is what has to last for the next 20 or 30 years until we die. These raises are important for our financial security.

Keep up the good work. Donna Tillman, Pomona