STRIKE ONE

Classes stop at WCU as union strikes

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Adam Farence afarence@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @afarence on Twit­ter

WEST CH­ESTER >> For the first time ever, pro­fes­sors across Penn­syl­va­nia’s State Sys­tem of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion (PASSHE) went on strike Wed­nes­day at 5 a.m., fol­low­ing 15 months of failed ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween their union and the state sys­tem.

“Our hope is that this is short,” said univer­sity pro­fes­sor and union spokesman Ed­ward Lor­dan. “We clearly rec­og­nize the hard­ship this causes for ev­ery­one in­volved.”

Lor­dan also said the ma­jor­ity of stu­dents sup­ported the fac­ulty, and ex­pressed his hope that the strike will get re­solved quickly, so as not to de­lay cer­e­monies for stu­dents set to grad­u­ate in De­cem­ber.

“I think some are very con­cerned, es­pe­cially those grad­u­at­ing in De­cem­ber. There’s a lot of pres­sure on them,” he said.

Univer­sity spokes­woman Nancy Gainer also ex­pressed hope the strike would get re­solved quickly, and said ev­ery­one is still keep­ing the stu­dents’ best in­ter­ests at heart.

“The at­mos­phere on cam­pus is fo­cused on stu­dents,” she said. “Ev­ery­one wants what’s best for the stu­dents.”

Ac­cord­ing to Gainer, univer­sity staff has been go­ing from class­room to class­room and dis­miss­ing stu­dents if their pro­fes­sor did not show up be­cause of the strike.

Shortly af­ter 5:30 p.m. Tues­day, the univer­sity’s in­terim pres­i­dent, Christo­pher Fiorentino, sent an email to all univer­sity stu­dents, in­form­ing them the univer­sity will re­main open, in­clud­ing din­ing and res­i­dent halls.

He also wrote that movies would be shown free of charge in the stu­dent union’s the­ater from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

PASSHE spokesman Kenn Mar­shall said the state sys­tem rep­re­sen­ta­tives hoped talks could progress enough to con­vince the union to at least post­pone the strike, and that at the mo­ment there are no fur­ther talks planned.

“We’re dis­ap­pointed the fac­ulty chose to go on strike,” Mar­shall said. “We need to get this over with, and as a sys­tem move for­ward.”

Ken­neth Mash, union pres­i­dent, also said there are no plans at the mo­ment to re­turn to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble. And in ref­er­ence to reach­ing an agree­ment Tues­day night he said, “we didn’t get all that close.”

Roughly 110,000 stu­dents across the state sys­tem will not be able to at­tend class un­less their in­struc­tors de­cide to cross picket lines.

Re­ports of at least one pro­fes­sor cross­ing picket lines cir­cu­lated early in the day Wed­nes­day. One stu­dent on her way to class said she still had a test to take.

While un­con­firmed, Lor­dan con­demned any pro­fes­sors who may be cross­ing picket lines to teach, stat­ing that do­ing so weak­ens the po­si­tion of the union and po­ten­tially ex­tends the strike.

“These pro­fes­sors are free to do what they want, but at the same time, their de­ci­sion can pro­long the strike,” he said. “I would say it’s a lit­tle frus­trat­ing when some­one is go­ing to get the ben­e­fits of this, but won’t par­tic­i­pate.”

He also said he would be sur­prised if ev­ery univer­sity pro­fes­sor pick­eted and none crossed lines to teach.

Some stu­dents pick­eted along­side fac­ulty and many ex­pressed sup­port for them.

“It’s a shame that it’s led to a strike,” said se­nior Ni­cholas An­gelina, of Me­dia. “But I’m glad that the pro­fes­sors are fight­ing for what they be­lieve in.”

Oth­ers said they were en­joy­ing the re­prieve from classes.

“I’d be fine if they re­solved it this week­end,” said ju­nior Sam Caldwell. “But a five­day week­end wouldn’t be that bad.”

Oth­ers at­tended class at their reg­u­lar times and left af­ter a univer­sity staff mem­ber dis­missed them when their pro­fes­sor did not show up.

Gainer said some pro­fes­sors pro­vided work and as­sign­ments to their stu­dents ahead of time so they could still con­tinue with their ed­u­ca­tion.

Im­me­di­ately lead­ing up to the strike, and shortly af­ter it went into ef­fect, Penn­syl­va­nia Gov. Tom Wolf and other or­ga­ni­za­tions be­gan com­ment­ing on the sit­u­a­tion.

“We must en­sure our pro­fes­sors are treated fairly while rec­og­niz­ing PASSHE’s dif­fi­cult fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion due to years of un­der­fund­ing,” Wolf wrote.

Wolf al­luded to the 1990 strike at Tem­ple Univer­sity, and noted the dam­age it did to the univer­sity’s stu­dent pop­u­la­tion. Wolf said it took years for Tem­ple to re­cover.

The Penn­syl­va­nia Bud­get and Pol­icy Cen­ter re­leased a state­ment shortly be­fore 10 a.m. Wed­nes­day about the strike.

“Given the im­por­tance of PASSHE uni­ver­si­ties not just to stu­dents and fac­ulty mem­bers but to all of us in Penn­syl­va­nia, it is im­por­tant that the la­bor dis­pute be set­tled quickly and fairly and in a way that pro­tects aca­demic pro­grams so vi­tal to the state,” the state­ment read in part. “But the longterm prospects for higher ed­u­ca­tion in our state won’t be se­cure un­less po­lit­i­cal lead­ers re­verse the de­cline in fund­ing for higher ed­u­ca­tion and our fu­ture.”

The Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of La­bor and Congress of In­dus­trial Or­ga­ni­za­tions ex­pressed their sup­port for the fac­ulty.

Talks be­tween the state sys­tem and union broke down Tues­day evening. The state sys­tem first re­leased de­tails per­tain­ing to the break­down in talks around 9 p.m. Tues­day night. Of­fi­cials an­nounced a lift to the me­dia black­out to which both sides agreed.

The union quickly fol­lowed up in a broad­cast pro­duced with an iPhone and Face­book Live, where Mash spoke to sev­eral thou­sand view­ers sum­ma­riz­ing events shortly af­ter the state sys­tem re­leased de­tails about their best of­fer to the union.

“Up un­til (Tues­day), it was a nor­mal, beau­ti­ful fall semester,” said Jack Kinslow, an aca­demic ad­vi­sor who was pick­et­ing with the union Wed­nes­day morn­ing.

Kinslow said he was a grad­u­ate stu­dent at Tem­ple in 1990, when the fac­ulty there went on strike.

“I’m hop­ing by the grace of God this one fin­ishes faster than that,” he said re­fer­ring to the Tem­ple strike.

PETE BANNAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

The West Ch­ester fac­ulty union has gone out on its first-ever strike Wed­nes­day fol­low­ing 15 months of failed ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween their union and the state sys­tem.

PETE BANNAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

The West Ch­ester fac­ulty union has gone out on its first-ever strike Wed­nes­day fol­low­ing 15 months of failed ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween their union and the state sys­tem.

ADAM FARENCE — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Stu­dents, along with fac­ulty, pick­eted on West Ch­ester Univer­sity’s cam­pus Wed­nes­day.

PETE BANNAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

West Ch­ester Univer­sity sopho­more Lau­ren Platt pins a strike but­ton on in sup­port of the fac­ulty, which went on strike Wed­nes­day. “It makes me sick to hear the state walked out of ne­go­ti­a­tions,” Platt said.

PETE BANNAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

The West Ch­ester fac­ulty union has gone out on first-ever strike Wed­nes­day.

ADAM FARENCE — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Fac­ulty pick­eted at 10 lo­ca­tions across cam­pus Wed­nes­day morn­ing af­ter months of failed talks be­tween the union and state sys­tem of higher ed­u­ca­tion.

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