SEIU 1021

California College of the Arts Workers Hit the Picket Lines Tomorrow in First Strike at a California Private College Since 1976
Despite administration’s assertions that an agreement is imminent, they have made no real effort to find common ground on their staff’s priorities—and their staff are done waiting patiently after over 2 years of negotiations and violations of labor law


On Tuesday, February 8, California College of the Arts (CCA) will make history in a way administration might not be proud of, as its staff goes on strike in protest of its unfair labor practices. A huge majority of faculty, including adjunct professors and ranked faculty, are expected to honor the picket lines.

This will be the first strike at a private arts college in the nation since 2012 and the first strike at a private college in California since a one-day strike at Pepperdine in 1976.

The situation could have been avoided, had CCA administration decided to get serious about reaching agreements on their employees’ key priorities after they voted by 97% to authorize a strike in December. Instead, management will see classes canceled, studios and facilities shuttered, services interrupted—and picket lines outside the campus. There will also be artistic activities related to the strike happening throughout the week.

WHAT: CCA staff strike, with “sympathy strike” participation from adjunct faculty, ranked faculty, students, and community. Show your union siblings some love–come out and support! Activities for the week listed here.

WHEN: Tuesday, Feb. 8 – Friday, Feb. 11. Picket lines will be up from 8 am – 5 pm.

WHERE: CCA San Francisco campus, 1111 8th St, San Francisco, CA 94107 (Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday); CCA Oakland campus, Broadway and Clifton (Wednesday, 2/9). There will be a rally at noon in SF on Tuesday and again at noon in Oakland on Wednesday.

“CCA is breaking labor laws, and staff have been negotiating our first contract for over 2 years! Adjunct faculty have also been negotiating their second contract for a year and a half,” said CCA Senior Library Technician Amber Bales, who also serves as the CCA union secretary. “CCA management and their lawyer will tell you this is a normal negotiation process, but it’s not. It is completely dysfunctional.”

CCA staff will hold the picket lines from 8 am to 5 pm outside the San Francisco campus every day this week starting tomorrow with the exception of Wednesday, when the picket lines shift to the Oakland campus. They will hold rallies at noon both days (San Francisco on Tuesday, Oakland on Wednesday), as well as artistic activities related to the strike at various times throughout the week.

Adjunct faculty will be participating in a sympathy strike, canceling classes and joining the picket lines. Just today, 99 ranked faculty members signed a letter to CCA administration urging them to settle a fair contract with staff and adjuncts and pledging not to cross the picket line, instead participating in strike-related teach-ins and pedagogical activities.

The impending strike has also met an outpouring of support from students and alumni, who have sent hundreds of emails to administration urging them to settle a fair contract immediately. At least 15 local elected leaders, including nine of the eleven members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and Assemblymember Mia Bonta, have publicly urged CCA’s administration to settle a fair contract with staff and adjunct faculty.

Key priorities that administration has not adequately addressed in contract negotiations include livable wages—though CCA President Stephen Beal is paid more than any other administrator of a private Bay Area college, behind only the president of Stanford. Roughly 2/3 of full-time staff are considered low-income by Bay Area cost of living measures. Job security and input in decision-making processes are also top issues.

The urgency of employee involvement in institutional decision-making is underscored by CCA’s “campus unification plan” — a risky, shady real estate venture similar to those that recently bankrupted and nearly shut down San Francisco Art Institute and Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont. CCA’s Potrero Hill campus, where they plan to build on the “back lot” to consolidate operations in San Francisco, has already been mortgaged as collateral for $30 million in debt. Given the college’s fundraising record, there is skepticism that the tuition-dependent college will be able to repay that debt.

CCA staff and faculty have long been sounding the alarm about how the plan endangers the institution, its programs, its students, and ultimately its legacy—to no avail.

“CCA staff are going on strike because our administration shows a complete lack of respect for the rights of union workers. They stall the collective bargaining process and break the law by making unilateral changes to working conditions,” said CCA Libraries Public Services Manager Paul Navarrete, who is also a member of the union contract negotiations team. “We hope going on strike will result in a contract that we on the bargaining team can proudly recommend to our members: a contract that raises salaries for the lowest-paid workers, wins seniority rights that will help retain our great staff members, and improves student services.” 

“CCA doesn’t like having to answer to a unionized workforce. They want to continue to do whatever they want, regardless of the effects on workers – especially during this transitional time as we say goodbye to the beloved Oakland campus and move all programs to San Francisco,” explained Bales.“President Beal and Provost Carland don’t think labor relations are part of their jobs, and CCA management thinks they can push around workers. It’s time to remind them that CCA doesn’t work unless we do.”

A GoFundMe strike fund to support striking workers who will suffer from losing their wages during next week’s strikes has already almost met its $15,000 goal since it was set up by CCA staff union members last Wednesday.

You’ll find more background on the CCA staff union here.