By Laura Quain
APSCUF President Kenneth Mash announced the union would go on strike Oct. 19 if no contract agreement is reached by the set date, live streaming his speech on Facebook on Sept. 23.
According to an APSCUF press release, “The State System has asked for tens of millions more in concessions from faculty than they have from anyone else,” Mash said.
The announcement was made after offers were made from each side to move the negotiations forward. PASSHE offered a fact-finding solution and APSCUF proposed binding arbitration, a panel composed of three members appointed by either side that can legally decide a contract. Fact-finding would make use of a Pa. Labor Relations board arbitrator and is not legally binding.
The announcement was made after last weeks’ five day round of negotiations. “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,” said Mash, according to a release. “The clock is ticking.”
According to a PASSHE release, the State system is asking for APSCUF to return to the bargaining table next week to resume negotiations. APSCUF has stated it is waiting for future meeting dates. “A strike by faculty runs counter to everything that higher education stands for,” said spokesperson Kenn Marshall, according to the release.
According to PASSHE, APSCUF is asking for increases larger than earlier agreements made with AFSCME, another public service employees union.
On September 12, APSCUF approved a strike authorization vote that grants the union’s leadership the authority to call a strike.
APSCUF represents faculty at 14 Pennsylvania state universities. About 5,500 faculty members have been without contract since June 30, 2015. The major issues up for negotiation are healthcare, the distribution of the workload for temporary faculty and salaries
According to Kenn Marshall, spokesman for PASSHE, it has engaged in full contract negotiations with APSCUF eight times in the past 30 years. Complications that have risen with this round of negotiations are a direct result of the state system faces its most difficult fiscal challenges in its history.
“During each of those prior occasions, a settlement was not reached until some point after the expiration of the prior contract,” said Marshall.
The state system has proposed to increase the use of temporary faculty, instead of permanent faculty, by 25 percent with no pay increase. Temporary, or adjunct, faculties do not hold the same commitment to the university as permanent, or tenured, professors do. APSCUF faculties fear that this lack of commitment creates an unstable learning environment for students.
Permanent faculty members voiced concerns for their salaries, benefits and for the education of their students. “We’re protecting not just what we do in our classroom but the future value of your [students] degree,” said Kevin Mahoney, professor of rhetoric and composition at KU.
“This is all caused by their [PASSHE] attitude. It’s completely unnecessary and it hurts you guys. They claim to care about you [students] but they don’t give a damn about you. They care only about trying to save money, and if they cooperated with us we could find ways to save money but they don’t do it that way and they claim
we don’t understand the finances,” said Daniel Spiegel, professor of computer Science at KU and PR chair and spokesperson for APSCUF’s Kutztown local.
According to Marshall, the state system intends for universities to operate as normal if a strike occurs, though individual faculty members have the choice to stay in the classroom or to walk out. “Since we have never experienced a strike, we don’t know what the result would be. Certainly, a lengthy strike involving a large number of faculty would be extremely harmful to students. We remain hopeful that will not occur, and are committed to remaining at the bargaining table as long as necessary to assure our students have uninterrupted access to a high-quality, affordable education,” said Marshall.
After having gone over 400 days without a contract, APSCUF faculty is adamant about their stance. “This would go so much better if [PASSHE] would see us as partners rather than interchangeable parts that are easily replaced,” said Spiegel. “Faculties are not interchangeable parts that are easily replaced, they are the fabric of the institution. PASSHE refuses to recognize this.”