State college and university union sets strike date
APSCUF members are preparing to strike starting Oct. 19
After weeks of failed negotiations and publicly lampooning each other, the union representing the faculty of Pennsylvania’s state universities has formally announced a strike will take place Oct. 19 if what the union deems a fair contract cannot be reached.
Kenneth M. Mash, president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF), announced the strike date early Friday morning via a livestream Facebook news conference.
“The state system has asked for tens of millions more in concessions from faculty than they have from anyone else,” Mash said. “Faculty offered a major health care concession, but the state system did not change their offer.”
Shortly after Mash made his announcement, Kenn Marshall, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), issued a statement where he highlighted what PASSHE officials feel are reasonable offers to the union, including $159 million in pay raises.
“A strike by faculty runs counter to everything that higher education
stands for,” Marshall wrote. “The union is falsely claiming that we are not being serious; $159 million is serious money.”
In PASSHE’s statement, officials wrote that individual faculty could receive raises between 7.25 percent and 17.25 percent, but would require changes to other areas such as health care to help the state system cut costs.
A statement released by the union states that PASSHE wants to, among other things, increase the
use of temporary faculty instead of permanent faculty and allow graduate students to teach classes instead of faculty.
These announcements come on the heels of what has been described as “marathon talks,” where the state system and union negotiated at length but ultimately failed to reach an agreement.
Previously, both sides sought to pursue a thirdparty solution to the contract impasse. The state system formally requested the proposed negotiations be reviewed by an arbiter appointed by the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board.
At the time, Marshall said the labor relations board could decide whether or not to move forward with arbitration by Friday. However, no formal announcement has yet been made.
Likewise, the union officials proposed both the union and state system enter binding arbitration. According to the union, under this method both sides would agree to uphold whatever agreement a three-person panel decides upon - an offer the state system rebuked since they would have to agree to the contract without seeing it first.
Talks are set to resume in early October. If the union
and state system reach an agreement, a strike will be averted.
“We will continue to go to the table in an earnest attempt to negotiate a fair deal. It is time for the state system to do the same,” Mash said.
Union members have frequently stated they do not want to go on strike, but will do so if they feel they do not receive a fair agreement. The state system has also previously said the consequences of a strike rest solely with the union.
Both sides have repeatedly said they are making an honest effort to negotiate fairly with each other, and each claim the other
side has been unreasonable.
Threatening a strike is a move APSCUF officials frequently make every time contract negotiations are underway, and union officials have cautioned they have come closer to striking in recent years.
The potential for a strike to occur started coming closer to reality when APSCUF faculty voted overwhelming to authorize union leadership to announce a strike date.
Union faculty had the opportunity to vote from Sept. 7 to Sept. 9, and according to union officials 93 percent of union members who voted opted for strike authorization.
APSCUF also represents athletic coaches, who held a similar vote several days later and likewise authorized a strike.
Across the state system, APSCUF represents around 5,500 faculty members. In addition to West Chester, Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, and Slippery Rock universities, are part of PASSHE.
To contact Daily Local News staff writer Adam Farence, email afarence@ dailylocal.com, or call 610-235-2647.
Some of West Chester University’s unionized faculty protested earlier in September about the current situation they said the state system is putting them through.