Union Shake-Up in California

CSU's faculty union suddenly disaffiliates from the state's largest K-12 teachers' union.

August 12, 2019
 

The California Faculty Association, a massive union representing professors on and off the tenure track, librarians, counselors, and coaches across the California State University system, has quietly disaffiliated from the California Teachers Association and the National Education Association.

CFA had been affiliated with California’s K-12 faculty union for decades.

It’s unclear exactly what prompted the break. A CFA spokesperson said via email that the union disaffiliated with CTA and NEA after “lengthy consideration and upon a vote by CFA’s Board of Directors.”

CFA “continues to support public K-12 teachers in California and nationwide,” the spokesperson said, “and will fight alongside them for educational justice. We remain deeply committed to working families and strongly affiliated with organizations that protect and defend all public education; our advocacy on behalf of students, educators, and our communities continues.”

William Herbert, executive director of the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at the City University of New York’s Hunter College, said that whatever happened in California, it’s not part of a national trend of faculty unions parting ways with K-12 teacher unions.

“In fact, we are seeing unions working together more,” Herbert said, citing organizing by the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors at the University of New Mexico as one example.

CTA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some commentators have attributed the rift, in part, to a contentious leadership election earlier this year. As CTA vice president, Theresa Montaño, a professor of Chicana and Chicano studies at CSU's Northridge campus, was expected to be elected its new president. But CTA’s then president, Eric Heins, endorsed her opponent, Toby Boyd. Both men have K-12 teaching backgrounds.

Montaño, who worked as a middle and high school teacher prior to becoming a professor, did not respond to a request for comment.

Writing for the LA School Report, columnist Mike Antonucci wrote that “Certainly CTA will lament the loss of membership, but it may gain some benefit from not having to deal with issues unique to the California State University system anymore. CFA members might not notice any difference at all, which isn’t a good thing for CTA.”

The break was first reported by EdSource. The California-based news site said that CTA has added new members this year, despite 2018’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling against mandatory agency fees for public sector unions in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31. So CTA says that its 22,000 new members will offset the approximately 19,000 CSU-based members who belonged to both the teachers' and faculty associations, according to EdSource. CTA says its overall membership remains at around 325,000.

California’s Community College Association remains affiliated with the CTA.

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