SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Faculty at San Diego State University, Cal State San Marcos and 21 other California State University campuses began voting Monday on whether to authorize a strike over a continuing labor dispute focused on salaries.

Voting will continue for 10 days, with balloting scheduled to end at 5 p.m. Oct. 28.

If the 25,000 members of the California Faculty Association authorize a strike, it does not automatically mean they will walk off the job. The vote merely authorizes the union to call a strike, depending on the status of labor talks.

"After years of stagnant faculty wages, the faculty on our public university campuses are angry and we are ready for this strike vote," association President Jennifer Eagan said. "We all know that the chancellor's 2 percent (pay raise offer) is simply not enough to make teaching in the CSU sustainable."

The union is calling for a 5 percent salary hike, along with additional increases based on years of service. "This is my first semester teaching classes at Cal State, and I had to pick up additional work as a courtesy clerk at a local area grocery store in order to pay rent," said James Anderson, a lecturer in the Department of Communication at CSUSM, where instructors plan to rally Tuesday.

According to the CSU, there is a roughly $68.9 million funding gap between the union and university salary proposals. University officials said compensation issues are a top priority for the system.

"That's why faculty were the only group of employees to receive salary increases and tenure-track salary promotions during the recession years," according to the CSU. "Over the last two years alone, CSU has invested $129.6 million in compensation, with $65.5 million of that going to faculty."

The university acknowledged that strike-authorization votes are common during collective bargaining. It said a strike "is not in the best interest of CSU students."

"The CSU is committed to the collective bargaining process and to reaching a negotiated settlement with the California Faculty Association," according to the CSU.

The union will hold an informational picket Tuesday at SDSU.