By Andrew Kutzer
The APSCUF faculty strike came to an end on Friday after students and faculty picketed across the campuses of the 14 PASSHE schools. APSCUF and PASSHE published press releases stating that the two sides had reached a tentative agreement on Friday.
The strike impacted KU and 13 other PASSHE universities, totaling an enrollment of around 100,000 students among all of the schools in the system. APSCUF represents around 5,500 faculty members across the universities. It was the first strike the state system has ever seen over its 30-year history and a first for APSCUF.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, faculty prepared to strike and picket when a live stream video from APSCUF president Kenneth Mash stated that negotiations held from Oct. 14-18 fell through.
KU students arrived on campus and were greeted by picket signs and chanting from striking faculty. Classrooms were empty with the exception of a handful of classes that continued through the strike.
According to a PASSHE press release, once finalized, the three-year agreement would run until June 30, 2018. A full APSCUF vote must be held for ratification and then to the state system’s board of governors for approval.
The agreement includes pay increases and healthcare cost savings, according to the State system’s release. “Today is an opportunity for a fresh start,” said PASSHE Chancellor Frank Brogan, in the release.
“Throughout this process, our students have been remarkably patient, and they should be applauded. Now we look forward to making sure the rest of the year ends strong for them and for our talented faculty.”
The APSCUF release stated that as a result of the agreement, faculty would leave the picket lines immediately.
According to the APSCUF release, the union accepted concessions on salary and benefits in exchange the state system’s 249 changes proposed by PASSHE. APSCUF stated that the salary benefits were lower than what other unions received.
“Our primary goals were to preserve quality education for our students, protect our adjuncts from exploitation and make sure the varieties of faculty work are respected,” APSCUF president Kenneth M. Mash said. “We achieved every single one of those goals, and the faculty were willing to take less than every other bargaining unit in order to preserve those goals.”
“We are thankful to Gov. Tom Wolf for his commitment to reaching an agreement. We may never have received a deal if it were not for his commitment to public higher education, our universities and our students.”
“We also were overwhelmed and grateful for the support of our brothers and sisters at other unions. Most of all, we thank our students,” said Mash.
On Wednesday, KU president Hawkinson released a statement over university email. “I’m pleased to announce that Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education and AFSCUF have come to a tentative agreement and the faculty will be returning to work,” said KU President Hawkinson.
In the statement, Hawkinson thanked students for their patience over the three-day strike. “Let me express my gratitude to the many individuals, on both sides of this labor dispute, who conducted themselves with dignity, graciousness, and respect for each other and for our institution.”
“But the most serious work we must do is to endeavor together to repair any damage done to the personal relations of the members of our community,” said Hawkinson.
Details about the agreement have not been released at this time. An announcement put out from the university informed students that faculty would begin to work at midnight and, starting Saturday, classes would resume as scheduled.