CSUF Campus Photo

303 Cal State University employees have been laid off systemwide and some expressed their frustrations at a virtual board of trustees meeting on Tuesday. (Eliza Green / Daily Titan)

Over two dozen Cal State University employees voiced their concerns at a virtual protest during the CSU’s board of trustees meeting on Tuesday after a wave of system-wide layoffs.

The CSU Employees Union urged members and supporters to seize their one-minute of allocated time during public comments to share their frustrations.

“The CSU must draw upon its full financial resources to prevent layoffs and keep members working,” said Catherine Cobb, the president of the Teamsters Local 2010 union.

Cobb was one of many attendees to urge the chancellor’s office to use the system’s savings of over $1.5 billion, which the CSUs failed to inform legislators and students of before its 2018 audit made it publicly known.

A CSUF employee also took the one-minute time slot to speak about their own experiences being served with a layoff notice while trying to provide for a family and pay for a house they purchased in July. They added that they are their wife’s sponsor for citizenship, and in order to continue with that process they must have a stable source of income.

“We have tons of work here and there's evidence of that, in that, I've been working overtime for this past month,” the employee said. “By this layoff, you're not only potentially taking my house away, but my wife's green card away as well.”

In July, Timothy White, the CSU chancellor, sent out an email detailing that due to the fiscal challenges ahead that there would be the possibility of layoffs, but the system would try to actively combat the issue by implementing a hiring freeze and cutting costs.

Despite the rainy-day fund, White said the CSU could face at least three years of financial uncertainty in August.

Joseph Jelinic, the senior director of collective bargaining in the CSU, said that 303 of the nearly 55,000 that work for the CSU have received layoff notices, with 99 from management positions.

In the same meeting, the committee on campus, buildings and grounds discussed the multi-year capital progress plan, in which all 23 campuses are provided financial assistance for the implementation of projects over a five-year period.

Elvyra San Juan, the assistant vice chancellor, said $5.9 billion has been invested into the plan since 2014, with more than half of the money coming from system-wide revenue bonds and $1.3 billion from reserves.

Some trustees questioned the ways in which this plan would affect jobs and what role on-campus maintenance would have in the program. San Juan said the majority of the work is contracted out.

“There are some projects, especially with utility projects where there are some dollars of a project that goes towards campus staffing,” San Juan said. “But, some of the work is difficult for in-house staff because of the equipment that’s ordered.”

San Juan added that there was a challenge in matching workers to jobs between routine maintenance and more skilled laborers. She said that it depended primarily on the type of jobs that the campus needed.

Following public comments on the devastation of the layoffs, trustee Douglas Faigin asked San Juan to clarify why the money in this plan cannot be shifted into helping retain the jobs at stake.

“It really is a matter of prioritization and whether the campus staff has a skillset and the time to support the project and with the deferred maintenance funding from the state there has historically been more of a limitation on the use of in-house staff,” San Juan said.

Steve Relyea, the executive vice chancellor and chief financial officer for the CSU, insisted that all of the CSU presidents have been focused on saving campus jobs after the $404 million state budget cut in May, at the height of the pandemic.

He said that when analyzing the budget hit the system endured, the number of jobs lost has been relative to the size of the cut and is currently at less than 0.5%.

“I can tell you that each of the presidents deeply is hurt when they have to lose any staff because of these budget cuts,” Relyea said. “I think that a lot of the actions that the presidents have taken in terms of using reserves, in terms of cost-cutting such as position freezes, freezing travel, freezing a lot of things has prevented more job loss.”

A photo caption previously stated that 303 faculty members were laid off from Cal State Fullerton instead of throughout the Cal State University system. We at the Daily Titan apologize for our mistake. 

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