California Faculty Association members and supporters strike at the intersection of College Avenue and Lindo Paseo Monday, January 22, 2024. The CSU faculty union is demanding a 12% increase and other concessions from the CSU system. Photo by Marco Guajardo/City Times Media
California Faculty Association members and supporters strike at the intersection of College Avenue and Lindo Paseo Monday, January 22, 2024. The CSU faculty union is demanding a 12% increase and other concessions from the CSU system. Photo by Marco Guajardo/City Times Media

UPDATED: CSU faculty begins their first system-wide strike this week. The City College community is watching (with gallery)

Nation’s largest public university system faces faculty work stoppage amid impasse between administrators, union

Update, Tuesday, 1:39 p.m.: A tentative agreement was reached between California State University system management and the California Faculty Association union Jan. 22 in the evening. The CFA called off the week-long system-wide strike at that time. The tentative agreement includes a retroactive 5% general salary increase from July 2023 and a 5% general salary increase beginning July 2024. The agreement also settled on issues around parental leave, raising salary floors, union involvement in faculty-police interactions, gender-inclusive restrooms and lactation accessibility.

Update, Wednesday, 3 p.m.: Video news story added in place of the earlier-produced Instagram reel.

San Diego State University gerontology senior Randolph Williams wore his red San Diego City College Knights sweatshirt to campus to join the California State University faculty strike Jan. 22.

The City College transfer student visited the California Faculty Association picket line in the middle of a day-long downpour to express his support for one of his professors picketing with CSU faculty.

“I’m ashamed that our staff have to come out here and protest,” Williams, a 57-year-old military veteran, said. “They’re really the backbone of the school, (the) backbone of the education process.” 

City College transfer student and SDSU gerontology major Randolph Williams, walks behind the CFA picket line after greeting a faculty member Monday, January 22, 2024. Photo by Marco Guajardo/CIty Times Media

Only days into the spring term, CFA leaders and members across 23 CSU campuses called for a system-wide strike, canceling most classes from Jan. 22-26. It came after the CSU chancellor and the CFA union failed to come to a bargaining agreement.

The CSU is the largest public university system in the United States. It serves over 450,000 students and employs 56,256 faculty and staff across 23 campuses.

Among the union’s demands for faculty, counselors, librarians and coaches are a 12% pay raise, increasing base pay for lowest-paid faculty, and more manageable workloads to allow for greater student support.

According to, CSU administrators offered the faculty union a 5% raise over the next three years, two additional weeks of paid parental leave, and accepted calls for concessions that included paid leave, department chair pay and gender-inclusive restrooms. 

Screenshot of the SDSU homepage informing visitors of the status of the CFA union strike which started Jan. 22.

According to the CSU’s Vice Chancellor of Human Resources Leora Freedman, the faculty union’s compensation demands would cost approximately $380 million in the first year and every year after that.

“If we were to agree to the increases that these unions are demanding, we would have to make severe cuts to programs,” Freedman said in a call with reporters on Jan. 19. “We would have to lay off employees. This would jeopardize our educational mission and cause hardship to many employees.”

SDSU faculty lined the road to campus along College Avenue in three separate groups, shaking strike signs, carrying banners and blowing whistles and horns to get the passing public’s attention. 

Before 8 a.m., the picketers chanted strike slogans while dressed in CFA-logoed rain ponchos as rain fell heavily at times and gutters beyond their feet flooded. 

Click on image below to see gallery.

Although the strike doesn’t affect the San Diego Community College District or San Diego City College, Jim Mahler, President of AFT Guild, Local 1931 shared in an email to City Times that the CFA strike is a part of the larger wave of labor activism arising across the country.

“A number of our part-time faculty also teach part-time at SDSU and many students take classes at both places, so while a short action like this will not disrupt anyone’s semester (at City College), it will put pressure on the CSU system to make a more generous offer,” wrote Mahler, who leads the union representing faculty at SDCCD. “We stand in solidarity with all academic workers and workers in general.”

In an email to City College employees, Mahler shared the same statement along with a flyer where faculty and staff could sign up to join CFA workers in solidarity.

Charles Toombs, California Faculty Association President since 2019 and professor of Africana Studies at SDSU for 30 years, called for the CSU chancellor’s office to settle a deal with the faculty union.

Toombs also acknowledged CSU faculty who resort to teaching at community colleges for economic reasons.

“For our faculty who are working at other community colleges, it just really shows they’re not paid enough to have one job here at SDSU or CSU,” he said.

Produced by Susana Serrano

CSU administrators and CFA negotiators started bargaining in June 2023, before going through mediation, impasse and fact-finding.

In December, union members called for one-day strikes at individual campuses before union leaders called for a full system-wide strike.

According to the latest figures from the State Chancellor’s Information System, of the 4,839 students who transferred from the San Diego Community College District to a university in 2019-20, 32.6% went to San Diego State University.

Lizbeth Castro, an SDSU social work major and former City College student, also stood at the picket line in solidarity with the CSU faculty.

“If they’re not being taken care of, then how are they supposed to take care of us?” Castro said.

Castro pointed to the coming tuition hikes that will total 34% across five years as being contrary to the CSU administration’s unwillingness to meet the CFA’s demands.

“It’s frustrating, because where’s the tuition going to if not to our educators?” Castro said. 

SDSU sustainability student Richie, who withheld his last name, expressed frustration with not being able to attend classes at SDSU during the strike.

“They’re acting like this is supposed to benefit me in some way,” he said. “I paid for my tuition for the week, and I get no compensation.”

CFA strikers stand by San Diego State’s Transit Center on College Avenue with raincoats and union-branded ponchos as they strike despite the rain, Monday, Jan. 22, 2024. In addition to a 12% pay increase, CFA demands extending parental leave to a full semester, and more counselors to support students with mental health services. Photo by Keila Menjivar Zamora/City Times Media

But union members like Marissa Mitchell, a lecturer in multiple departments including Professional Studies and Fine Arts, highlighted the support SDSU faculty have received from their students and pointed to the quality of educational instruction as directly tied to faculty compensation.

“A lot of our students are fully on board and they understand … that this benefits them too,” Mitchell said, “If we’re able to have more peace of mind about our bills, we can give them 100% of our focus.”

Mitchell made the personal connection of receiving insufficient compensation as a faculty member to justify pursuing a career in higher education.

“For the students that are wanting to go into education, what are we teaching them?” Mitchell asked. “I have a doctorate degree and I’m unable to pay my rent.”

Multimedia journalist Keila Menjivar Zamora contributed to this story.

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