Office of the President

The Essential Role of Our Unionized Staff 

February 13, 2023

Dear Cal Poly Pomona Students, 

Last week, I sent a message to faculty and staff addressing concerns raised by the campus chapters of two of our seven employee unions. Because you may have seen news articles or heard about these matters, I am sending a separate message specifically for students.  

It is important that you understand the essential roles that staff fulfill at Cal Poly Pomona in supporting student programs, services and university operations. It is also helpful for you to know how unions negotiate employment contracts and salaries across the 23 campuses with the California State University (CSU) system.   

Staff at Cal Poly Pomona support the work of academic departments in classes and labs; provide a range of health and well-being services; develop student programming and events; maintain the campus through custodial, landscape, construction, safety and repair services; and perform a variety of other essential administrative and operational functions. Quite simply, the university would not function without the indispensable contributions of our faculty and staff. 

Two CPP chapters of employee unions — the CSU Employees Union (CSUEU) and the Statewide University Police Association (SUPA) — recently issued communications that raised concerns about my leadership. As I pursued clarification about “a vote taken,” I learned that there had not been a “formal vote” by the local CSUEU chapter board members, rather it was conveyed that there was an assumed “consensus.”  

Nonetheless, I take any such actions or concerns expressed within our campus community seriously.

Below is a summary of the areas of concern in the CSUEU campus chapter communication, which was also reported in local and campus media, along with answers to questions you may have:  

What is the role of a union and what purpose do they serve? 

A labor union is a group of employees who join together to advance common interests such as wages, benefits, schedules and other employment terms by negotiating these issues with management. Each of the 23 CSU campuses has faculty and staff who are distributed among 10 unions.  

How are staff wages and contracts determined?  

The unions in the CSU, which represent more than 53,000 faculty and staff, negotiate wages and employment contracts for their members with the CSU’s Labor and Employee Relations Department, and not the individual campuses, through a process known as collective bargaining.  

What is CPP’s approach to staff development and promotion?  

I routinely meet with the campus union leaders to understand their concerns and insights about addressing institutional needs and challenges. Their input informed my decision in 2018 to create our first-ever unit dedicated to providing staff with professional development opportunities and preparing staff for career advancement and promotion. Since then, we have offered over 445 professional development courses attended by 7,437 repeat participants, and many more programs customized for individuals and campus departments. 

Why have staffing levels varied over the last several years?  

The last few years have been challenging given the global pandemic, the “great resignation,” and a changing work environment. We offered an early retirement program to help save money; 327 employees took this option. The savings from this and other staff departures enabled us to hire 419 staff and provide salary increases to 350 staff.  

How are presidential salaries determined? 

The CSU Board of Trustees determines presidential salaries. There was an increase in 2022 following an independent study of all CSU presidents that found some of the 23 presidents were paid as much as 33 percent less than the median salaries of university presidents at comparable universities outside the CSU system. Such studies also assist in the CSU’s efforts to attain more state funding to provide much needed increases in faculty and staff salaries. 

Did the President embezzle money from the university?  

No. I addressed this in my December message to campus, which provides information regarding our handling of fiscal improprieties in cases that were publicly addressed and resolved. The actions taken regarding these matters were in compliance with applicable law and CSU policy.  


Please know that as we address these issues, campus leaders and I remain committed to the professional development and advancement of our faculty and staff as they are integral to the continued success and advancement of our students and university.  


Soraya M. Coley, Ph.D.