Equality Labs congratulates California Faculty Association (CFA) for advocating and winning their new contract that is historic in its commitment to both racial and caste equity. This newly ratified CFA collective bargaining agreement will incorporate caste as a protected category to the 29,000-member strong union’s anti-discrimination clauses across all its contracts throughout the Cal State University (CSU) system. This is the largest union contract in the United States to have added caste as a protected category.
In a public statement, CFA President Charles Toombs wrote that this contract was the outcome of “two hard-fought, member-driven years of bargaining.” During negotiations he noted that “CFA members strongly supported the inclusion of caste. It is about non-discrimination not discrimination.”
In the words of CFA Vice President Kevin Wehr, this is the “first contract bargained explicitly with our anti-racism and social justice frame” that also includes caste as a protected category.
Will Jamil Wiltschko, Director of the California Trade Justice Coalition, added: “We applaud CFA for recognizing caste as a protected category. The labor movement has always been about solidarity, the notion that if one of us is under attack, we all are under attack. No one should face discrimination in the workplace based on one’s perceived birth status. We hope to see continued advances for caste equity happen in California and nationwide.”
Thenmozhi Soundararajan, Executive Director Equality Labs said: Equality Labs commends all the leaders who have fought continuously and tirelessly to make such a historic contract possible and we look forward to seeing students, faculty, staff, and community members work together to ensure caste equity becomes a reality across the CSU system. This win is a win for workers rights as caste equity is non negotiable to ensure safe workplaces across the United States. California Faculty Association has made dalit and labor history with this ratification and we look forward to implementing caste equity with these courageous workers.
Alvina Yeh, Executive Director of Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO, said: “We are proud and excited for this groundbreaking protection to come into force. CFA members are paving the way for workers everywhere, especially South Asian workers, to live and work more safely without threats from caste discrimination. Union organizing is critical to a stronger future for all of us!”
Dr. Anibel Ferus-Comelo, Director Labor Studies program at the University of California Berkeley said:
“This is a crucial step for ensuring caste equity for millions of workers both in the United States and in South Asia. Caste equity protections impact American workplaces and the supply chains, contractors, and offices of American companies in the region. From campaigns like Justice for Jeyasre and the BAPS temple case, it is clear that caste as a transnational challenge for workers must be met with strong regulation and enforced by governments, corporations, and unions. This win is a reminder that caste equity is a workers’ rights issue and that the movement for caste civil rights will not be stopped.”