California's Public University Employees Demand 'Equity Transformation'—And Threaten To Strike If They Don't Get It

Limits on police powers, regular access to 'gender-inclusive restrooms' included among demands

(@CFA_United X)
January 13, 2024

Professors and other employees in the California State University system are threatening to strike if system leaders refuse to provide a "desperately needed equity transformation," which would include "limits to police power" and widespread access to "gender-inclusive restrooms."

The California Faculty Association—an "anti-racism, social justice union" that represents nearly 30,000 employees of the nation's largest university system—announced the demands in a Tuesday statement. The union said California State University leaders have "never taken seriously our proposals for [a] desperately needed equity transformation." As a result, the union said, it has "no other option but to continue to move forward with our plan for a systemwide strike."

Included in the union's "equity transformation" are policies aimed at undermining campus police. One section of the union's contract proposal calls to "ensure the well-being of faculty who have and continue to suffer negative consequences … of overpolicing in the United States" by requiring a union representative to attend all conversations between school employees and campus law enforcement. Campus police must also be unarmed when talking to university staff, the contract says.

Another section of the contract, meanwhile, compels university leaders to provide a "gender-inclusive restroom within five minutes" of every faculty member's work site and install signs indicating "where the nearest gender-inclusive bathroom is located." Should a California State University system member fail to comply with the provision, faculty members "may file grievances over health and safety risks and inequities from lack of access to gender-inclusive restrooms."

The proposal reflects a broader push from liberal teachers' unions—both in K-12 and higher education—to use their power to enact left-wing initiatives. Last year, for example, the Portland Association of Teachers pushed its district to provide subsidized housing for poor students and lobby for expanded rent control. The Fresno Teachers Association similarly lobbied to open up its district's public school parking lots to the homeless.

The California Faculty Association did not respond to a request for comment. Its strike is scheduled to begin on Jan. 22—the first day of classes for some system colleges, including Sonoma State University. The school's unionized employees plan to join the strike, a move that is expected to bring canceled classes.

"Individual faculty members might decide to strike that week, which could result in individual classes being canceled," Sonoma State University spokesman Jeffery Keating said. The school's president, Ming Tung Lee, is nonetheless supporting the strike, saying in a statement that he supports his faculty's "right to be heard on this issue and on the other workplace issues of concern to them."

Beyond its police- and bathroom-related demands, the California Faculty Association has sparred with university system leaders over pay raises. California State University leaders offered the union a 5 percent salary increase, well below the union's demand of a 12 percent raise for all members.

The average California State University professor earns between $91,000 and $122,000, according to CalMatters, and the California Faculty Association secured raises of 4 percent and 3 percent in the past two years, respectively. Still, Sonoma State University criminology professor Napoleon Reyes, a California Faculty Association leader, told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that union members need the raise due to the coronavirus pandemic and "historic" inflation under President Joe Biden.

"The faculty lost a lot," he said.