HAYWARD (CBS SF) -- California State University faculty from throughout the state converged on two of the system's 23 campuses Thursday to participate in a one-day strike to protest the cancellation of contractual raises for CSU faculty as tuition increases for CSU students, union officials said.
California Faculty Association spokesman Brian Ferguson said hundreds gathered outside CSU East Bay in Hayward, one of the two convergence points Thursday for CSU faculty, along with Dominguez Hills in Carson.
Ferguson said faculty and students arrived at the campus from as far north as Humboldt and as far south as Fresno, and that half of the professors at CSU East Bay have pledged to participate in the picket line. He said nearly two-thirds pledged not to cross picket lines.
Union leaders said this is the first-ever strike in the CSU system.
Despite the strike, CSU East Bay spokesman Barry Zepel said that the campus remained open Thursday. He said nearly 600 classes were scheduled for as many as 8,500 students between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday, the hours of the strike.
Zepel said that the strike canceled some classes, though administration could not yet be sure how many, and that traffic was snarled coming in and out of the campus.
AC Transit buses were unwilling to cross picket lines, Zepel said, and dropped passengers off outside of the campus when they normally would come onto campus.
In addition to faculty and students, Ferguson said the strike has received support from K-12 public school teachers and other unions.
KCBS' Bob Melrose Reports:
Close to 100 K-12 teachers from Oakland, San Leandro and Castro Valley arrived at the picket line before their classes Thursday, and the Teamsters union and delivery drivers honored the strike by not making deliveries to the campus Thursday, Ferguson said.
A statement released Wednesday by the California Nurses Association encouraged union members to join CSU picket lines Thursday as well.
CFA treasurer Susan Green traveled to CSU East Bay from Chico Thursday morning, and said there was a busload of about 50 faculty members, students and local public school teachers behind her.
Green said she has found that CSU students are supportive of the strike.
"We say the faculty working conditions are student learning conditions," Green said, adding that students have seen the effects of state budget cuts in larger class sizes and shorter office hours.
"They also realize that the rhetoric of putting students first isn't true if you're always putting faculty last," Green said.
The strike comes following a closed-door CSU Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday that approved a nine percent tuition increase to take effect in 2012 to help bridge a $650 million budget gap from state funding cuts.
The tuition increase would make 2012 the sixth consecutive year of tuition increases for CSU students.
Student demonstrators clashed with police outside of the meeting, resulting in four arrests. The hikes drew criticism from state officials, including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.
Philip Klafky, a professor of ethnic studies at San Francisco State University, said he is joining Thursday's strike largely to make a statement against the tuition hikes throughout the CSU system.
"I'm concerned about the fact that I've not been given promised raises, but I'm mostly concerned about the attack on quality public education," Klafky said.
Klafky is sharply critical of CSU Chancellor Charles Reed, saying that Reed is trying to impose a corporate model on the public education system.
"He doesn't understand frontline teachers like myself, who have to go into work every day with larger classes, fewer opportunities for our students, and has refused to honor a contract giving cost of living increases to faculty," Klafky said.
He said that his department of ethnic studies is over-represented in the strike because "we understand that the draconian cuts to public education impact the middle class tremendously but even more lower income and communities of color."
Klafky said that he expected as many as 500 teachers from SFSU would be joining strikers at CSU East Bay, and that thus far all CSU campuses have exceeded expectations for strike participation.
However, CSU spokesman Erik Fallis said that the demands the faculty is making through the strike are unrealistic, and if achieved will only hurt students.
Fallis said that that a general salary increase for faculty was only guaranteed if the CSU system received more state funding, which did not happen. Instead, the CSU system received drastic unexpected cuts.
"It really came down to the fact that the contract stated we would go back to the table if the state did not provide the funding that was promised," Fallis said.
Fallis said the CSU faculty are the only CSU employees that have received any general salary increase since 2007, and that no executives or administrators have received salary increases in that time.
"The unfortunate reality is there will be no additional state funding for $20 mil for faculty, so if the faculty and union leadership were to get what they're demanding it would come from the students," he said.
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