top of page

Sonoma State maintenance workers join one-day, CSU-wide strike


Nov 15, 2023

The strike halted maintenance work across the 23 campuses in the nation’s largest four-year public university system.

Over 30 tradespeople employed at Sonoma State University picketed up and down the campus’s main road Tuesday afternoon, part of a wider, one-day labor action across the California State University system involving 1,100 maintenance employees.

The striking workers in Rohnert Park said there would have been more on them picket line if they had a full roster of employees.

Working conditions for the Teamsters in skilled trade positions — including carpenters, electricians, locksmiths and more — have been strained in recent years, union officials said, as the university has left empty positions unfilled and put off contract negotiations.

“During the (2019) fires, we were going through negotiations with our contracts,” said Josh Gillespie, a supervising electrician and former union steward. “They asked us to pause, we agreed, and when we went back again it was COVID — the pandemic. They said they would make up for it the next year … It’s this year, it’s time. But they keep walking away.”

The one-day strike halted maintenance work across the 23 campuses in the nation’s largest four-year public university system.

The one-day strike halted maintenance work across the 23 campuses in the nation’s largest four-year public university system.

The Teamsters unit representing CSU maintenance workers has been in contract negotiations for nine months, with no resolution, leading the union to file multiple unfair labor practice claims against the university system, accusing administrators of stalling, interfering with workers’ rights to engage in union activities and threatening retaliation for striking.

Sonoma State officials deferred comment on the claims to the Chancellor’s Office, which manages negotiations.

“The California State University (CSU) disputes allegations of unfair labor practices,” said Amy Bentley-Smith, spokesperson for the Chancellor’s Office.

“The state board has not ruled on any issues brought forward by Teamsters Local 2010 in this round of bargaining,” Bentley-Smith added. “The CSU remains committed to the collective bargaining process and to reaching a negotiated agreement for increased compensation with the Teamsters, as we have done with five of our other employee unions in recent weeks.”

In negotiations, Teamsters representatives are asking for a pay hike that accounts for high inflation in the years of their latest contract, which expired in June. They are also asking CSU to reinstate annual steps that raise pay yearly based on tenure.

According to the union, CSU’s skilled tradesworkers are paid 23.6% less on average than their counterparts who work for the University of California system.

The CSU system has offered a 5% general salary increase backdated to July 1, 2023, according to Teamsters officials, who say the offer is too low based on the cost of living in Sonoma County and high inflation rates.

“CSU upper (management) have no clue about our struggles,” Gillespie said. “The cost of living skyrockets, but we’re still at the same wage. Is that fair?”

The one-day strike comes as thousands of CSU professors represented by the California Faculty Association gear up for a systemwide four-day strike in December.

According to Teamsters leaders, every skilled trade department at Sonoma State is at half staffing, leaving as few as one employee in some posts. As workers continue to leave Sonoma State for better paying jobs, the remaining employees are left to pick up the slack, union representatives said.

“We’re falling behind on everything. It means jobs are really rushed, it means injuries are higher,” said Kelley Greene, an HVAC mechanic.

The striking SSU Teamsters hoped Tuesday’s demonstration would show the importance of the work they do, and the impact on students if positions remain unfilled.

“Any emergency — fires, flood, COVID, we were here. When (administration) needs us, we are essential,” said Yacheslav Fedotov, Teamsters chief union steward. “But when the times are good, we can piss off.”

“They need to take care of us,” Gillespie said. “We’ve taken care of this place, they need to take care of us now.”

Sonoma State University spokesperson Jeff Keating said the university remained open during the strike and continued operations as normal.

“The university is committed as a public institution to providing student instruction and other student services,” Keating said. “Campus operations, and all administrative services, were available and scheduled events were held as planned.”

bottom of page