Historic Strike at Fresno State

Striking Fresno State faculty gathered in the rain to picket on Jan. 22. Photo by Peter Maiden
Striking Fresno State faculty gathered in the rain to picket on Jan. 22. Photo by Peter Maiden

Faculty members at Fresno State and throughout the California State University (CSU) system went on strike to call attention to stalled negotiations. The California Faculty Association (CFA) has been bargaining with management since May 2023. In a press release, the CFA says that it has been bargaining for a CSU that centers student learning only to be met with disrespect and derision by management.

At the Fresno rally held on Jan. 22, John Beynon, president of the local CFA chapter, said that “this is an historic strike and we are striking for our students, striking for ourselves, but we really feel deeply about the mission of the CSU as being an accessible and affordable place where people of California can go to get an education. It is a people’s university.”

Beynon says that the administrators and executives have treated the university like a “cash cow” for a long time and that needs to stop.

Fresno State faculty in the rain on a picket line on Jan. 22 as part of a statewide strike by the California Faculty Association. Photo by Peter Maiden
Fresno State faculty in the rain on a picket line on Jan. 22 as part of a statewide strike by the California Faculty Association. Photo by Peter Maiden

Alternatively, “when the teachers are thriving the students are thriving. We have to have a situation where the working conditions are tenable for the faculty so the learning conditions can be optimal for the students,” Beynon said.

Mattie, a freshman at Fresno State, said  that “most of my classes are canceled. I have one professor who said she isn’t part of the same union and can’t strike because if she were she could get fired. I understand what that feels like because we’re still expected to go to class regardless.” Mattie did not want us to use her last name for fear of retaliation.

Another Fresno State student received an e-mail sent to students from Kent Willis, Ph.D., vice president for student affairs and enrollment management, encouraging students to cross picket lines. Willis wrote that “there may be picket lines. I acknowledge it can feel uncomfortable to cross a picket line. You are welcome to choose an entrance that does not have one.”

The same e-mail encourages students to still attend classes that have not been canceled and report professors that are striking and canceling class. This is supposed to “best assure continuity and fulfillment of instruction.”

“In recent news reports, CSU management has only addressed our conflict over salary; they have completely ignored the issues of workload, health and safety concerns, and parental leave,” said Chris Cox, CFA vice president of racial and social justice (North region) and San José State lecturer.

Strikers in the rain at a rally at Fresno State on Jan. 22. The California Faculty Association called the strike statewide. Photo by Peter Maiden
Strikers in the rain at a rally at Fresno State on Jan. 22. The California Faculty Association called the strike statewide. Photo by Peter Maiden

“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.”

More than 400 faculty, students and community members participated in the Fresno rally. 

CFA members’ efforts paid off with a tentative agreement with CSU management. The strike was called off, and faculty returned to work on Jan. 23.

“This historic agreement was won because of members’ solidarity, collective action, bravery and love for each other and our students,” reads a CFA statement. 

CFA represents more than 29,000 tenure-line instructional faculty, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches on the 23 campuses of the CSU system, from Cal Poly Humboldt in the north to San Diego State in the south.

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