California State University teachers voted overwhelmingly to authorize two-day rolling strikes at the system's 23 campuses in response to what their union calls needlessly drawn-out contract negotiations.
The vote by members of the California Faculty Association does not necessarily mean a strike will be called, it is just an authorization for the union's leadership to call one.
"We have said all along that we do not want to strike, but we will if that is what is necessary," CFA President Lillian Taiz, a history professor at Cal State Los Angeles, said.
She added that the union's membership has "run out of patience" with the contract talks, and have "had enough of executives putting themselves about the needs of the students and of the public university."
"Enough of managers using budget cuts as an excuse to destroy the quality of students' education," she said.
Union officials said a strike at the 23 CSU campuses would be the largest "in the history of American higher education."
Meetings are scheduled this week to see if the contract talks can get back on track.
CFA teachers staged a one-day strike in November at Cal State Dominguez Hills in Carson and Cal State East Bay in Hayward.
The union contends the university system is trying to move more courses into its "for-profit" extension programs while paying faculty less money to teach them. The union is also contesting proposed increases in class sizes, the lack of salary increases over the past two academic years, and the possibility of lower wages and benefits in the future.
CSU spokeswoman Claudia Keith said previously that union members had received $60 million in pay raises over the previous three years. CSU officials also have insisted that the university was hard-hit by a $650 million cut in state funding.
In November, the CSU Board of Trustees approved a 9 percent tuition hike for the 2012-13 school year. Tuition will increase by $498, meaning undergraduate student fees will go from $5,472 in 2011-12 to $5,970 for 2012- 13. With campus-specific fees added in, the total cost for undergraduate students will be more than $7,000 for the full year.
The increase will be on top of a 12 percent tuition hike that took effect this school year, and a 9 percent increase imposed in 2010.
Keith has said a strike-authorization vote was a "premature" step since negotiations were still continuing with the union.