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The California Faculty Association Sellout Meets (Highly Educated) Resistance

Carrying the classic signs, “I don’t want to strike but I will,” California Faculty Association (CFA) members marched in an atmospheric river storm on Monday, January 22.
Nobody counted how many marched, but in some instances, uncommon academic milita…

Carrying the classic signs, “I don’t want to strike but I will,” California Faculty Association (CFA) members marched in an atmospheric river storm on Monday, January 22.

Nobody counted how many marched, but in some instances, uncommon academic militancy appeared as in blocking roads at Sacramento State.

That raging storm, from central California Fresno to San Diego County at the southern border, destroyed homes, cars, and lives.

Still, they marched for hours, believing that withdrawing their labor, which they could see created all value on the 23 California State University (CSU) campuses, would demonstrate the power of their union. In all, the CSU holds nearly 500,000 students.

Proof of the value of their academic work: when their bosses were in the position of educating students during the strike, the bosses didn’t know what to do, offering diversions like dodgeball at Fresno State.

These are Ph.D.’s, MSWs, MAs, TAs, and MLIS, with about 20 years of scholarly work behind them, not typical strikers–but angry strikers who have been disrespected and exploited to what they rightly feel is an intolerable, nearly un-livable extent.

Then, their priceless diplomas were shredded by the united might of their Big Bosses and Union Bosses, who shut down the strike after less than 12 hours.

The Union Bosses had promoted a five-day strike. Most members prepared for it, even while being threatened with docked pay.

Suddenly, every syllabus had to be revised, classes prepped for Tuesday.

Prescient members might have seen the ironic shut-down coming when the Teamsters, having touted solidarity with CFA, settled a contract on the weekend before the CFA strike, a tentative agreement (TA) that included a “me too” clause, guaranteeing the Teamsters any additional raises that CFA might win.

CFA assured members that a firm 12% increase was its bottom line demand.

Then, on Monday night, 12% became 5%, although CFA declared five is really ten. It is not.

It is common for unions to lie to the members about what is in a TA. The United Auto Workers Union does that all the time. Until the recent wildcat strikes in k12, the National Education Association (long CFA’s parent) never did that. Things have changed.

In a little-noticed move, CFA left the California Teachers Association in 2019 in what had to be a snit between opportunists as no core moral issues are notable. I missed that, and I paid attention.

So, CFA, with assets at $2.11 million, is a small business. Compared to their former affiliate, the CTA, they’re a very small business. CTA lists assets at $472 million, while its parent, National Education, is a truly huge business. (ProPublica). NEA pays like a Big Big Business. Former President Reg Weaver made $686,949 in his last year in office, and that was years ago.

Any of these resources would have made a moderate or great strike fund, but unions think of themselves as banks, and staff as bankers, so little if anything is doled out to strikers other than a few sandwiches.

While much of the internal union practices, and officers, remained the same, over the past five years, working conditions got worse, especially in terms of the speed-up of booming class size, even in graduate classes where teaching assistants (grossly underpaid) are growing rare. Class speed-ups lead to replacing thoughtful essays with multiple-choice tests–dumbing down.

A note from a CSU emeritus professor related to a previous Counterpunch piece in the strike:

“The CSU is such a corporate entity that it has become unrecognizable as a system of higher education.”

CFA remains firmly committed to electoral politics and truckles to the Democratic Party. The Democrats control the governing board, which serves as the Biggest Boss for the CSU. Governor Newsome, an erstwhile presidential candidate (should the past-aged Joe Biden die) leads the Board.

So, there is a troika pact–CFA/CSU and the Board–vs. the rank and file–although too many PhD’s didn’t know that.

The militarization of campuses, even in humanities, grew more than incrementally, retired warriors entering the professorial ranks and winning power through Pentagon and related grants.

The humanities vanish. According to the former head of the American Historical Association, sociology was recently abolished in Florida Higher Education while history is eradicated in America’s public schools. STEM emphasis creates a nation of clerks.

In local Zoom conferences before the Monday strike, it was clear there was no strategy, no play on the real, visceral hate many humanities professors feel for their bosses–and that rightful fear that humanities are being wiped out.

No choke points for direct action, like an important basketball game at San Diego State, were designated–easily disrupted even if momentarily.

Instead, local reps suggested people go to the night game as the strike would end, each day, at 7:30 p.m., even though many classes extend well beyond that.

“What’s next after the five days?” The union representatives: “we don’t know.”

But this is capitalism and the key issue was money–12 percent. Like magic, it’s a 10!

Yet, those highly educated spotters, like debunker Houdini, see the FIVE behind the curtain.

They got to work in many, many online threads–with, unfortunately, no central organization–a rank-and-file caucus.

This is a loss. Doubly so. Unless…

Unless a real rank and file caucus is formed,, including all campus workers who are all represented by corrupt, fake, unions.

Circulating in the CSU humanities, powerful, reasoned analyses may lead to a “No” vote on the TA. One outlined the losses suffered of the last three years and then reached a passionate conclusion: ”

CFA-CSU GSI       Inflation      Net

2021:              4%                     6.5%       -2.5% (real wage cut)

2022:              3%                     8.2%       -5.2% (real wage cut)

2023:              5%                     4.7%        +.3% (tiny real wage rise)

2024:              5% (maybe?)     ???         [Don’t know yet; a small real increase if inflation down ~3-4%]

“One can’t just add 5% and 5% from the TA and say “10% YAY we’re all great!”  That’s a lie.  Inflation compounds too.  Moreover, I don’t think it is outrageous to argue that a Union that cannot negotiate real wage increases for its members is a failed Union (at least with respect to its members).  My strong sense is that this TA is a colossal failure of the negotiating team.  And no slick PR campaign or appeal to fear will change this. ”

…” Please know that the TA has caused a tremendous drop in morale and eroded trust among many faculty.  The word “betrayal” is on many lips. …”

“The CFA was routed.”

“A well-informed faculty should reject this agreement and take this opportunity to install a new CFA negotiating team.”

One CFA member told me, “I expect the employer to lie to me. But when the union lies to me, I dislike the union more.”

CFA’s counterpoint will, predictably, be more lies, more efforts to isolate resisters, to promote big “yes” votes from, for example, the Business School, the sports departments, Hotel Management, the many homeland security divisions, desperate adjuncts, and others.

And, CFA will say, “we can’t strike again. We did all we could and there is no more money available. Indeed the CFA web site says if the TA is not ratified, management might not come back to the bargaining table. There is no mention of reviving the strike.

Oddly, the website notes there is no date set for ratification.

Moreover, there is no secret ballot (a long-standing NEA/CTA tradition).

The staff will count the votes which will not be anonymous, sent electronically. (As of January 29, 2024)

Should the CFA-CSU alliance prevail, the normalcy of exploitation of minds and bodies will continue.

The context of this shabby deal in one of the largest education institutions in the US is important:

*An economic and hot war of the rich on the poor, worldwide,

* Racism, fascism, and mysticism rise–often in tandem–as mass, popular movements,

*A culture celebrating death and ignorance, abolishing the Enlightenment, destroying reason

itself, in pursuit of, above all, profits and greed (post-modernism to Identity politics to genocide),

*People are fighting back, but not making sense of WHY they must fight back: it’s class war and empire.

*Not recognizing those facts mean disparate, scattered, losing battles from the k12 wildcats of recent past (wrecked by NEA and AFT together) to the sold-out United Auto Workers strike, and more. (

The core issue of our time is the reality of booming color-coded inequality and perpetual war met by the potential of mass, class-conscious, anti-racist, international resistance.

This content originally appeared on and was authored by Rich Gibson.

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