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Cal State faculty start strike at largest US public university system

California State University faculty began a strike Monday, leaving the country’s largest public university system at a standstill as students return for the spring semester.

University professors, counselors, librarians, lecturers and coaches at the system’s 23 campuses, members of the California Faculty Association union, staged a five-day walkout over demands for higher wages and benefits. The union has 29,000 Cal State members.

“CSU management wants to maintain the status quo, which is not working for the vast majority of our faculty, students, and staff,” union Vice President Chris Cox said in a statement. “In order for us to have a properly functioning system in years to come, we need to improve the working conditions for faculty and learning conditions for students.”

“This includes raising the salary floor for the lowest paid faculty; a general salary increase for all faculty; parental leave appropriate to our work assignment, and appropriate staffing for mental health counselors on campus,” he added.

More than 450,000 students attend Cal State schools, including the vaunted California State Polytechnic, as well as sports powerhouses San Diego State and San Jose State. Classes were scheduled to begin at most Cal State campuses Monday.

The striking workers are specifically demanding a 12 percent pay raise, an increase of the minimum salary from $54,360 to $64,360, more university counselors for students and expanded parental leave, among other issues.

The union claims the university system has not adequately addressed its demands, including “completely ignoring” pushes for certain additional employee benefits, Cox said.

“Management wouldn’t even consider our proposals for appropriate class sizes, proper lactation spaces for nursing parents, gender inclusive bathroom spaces, and a clear delineation of our rights when interacting with campus authorities,” Cox continued.

At a press conference Friday, Cal State Chancellor Mildred García urged members not to strike.

“I have no interest in a strike. We are ready and willing to come back to the bargaining table with the California Faculty Association,” she said. “But we must work within our financial realities.”

In contract negotiations earlier this month, the university agreed to 5 percent raises, which the union deemed inadequate. The university reached a labor agreement with its Teamsters union local over the weekend, which also prepared to strike.

The strike follows a similar graduate student walkout at the University of California system in December 2022, which resulted in significant wage increases after 40 days of striking.

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