The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, APSCUF, will go ahead with a strike authorization vote that will begin today and continue through Wednesday, November 14th. The vote will allow the 14 chapter presidents in APSCUF to call for a strike if negotiations reach an impasse.
The vote comes on the heels of a meeting last Friday, November 9th where APSCUF members met with PASSHE (Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education) representatives in Harrisburg to further discuss APSCUF faculty contracts. Now in their 16th month without a contract, APSCUF members are growing impatient with what Lauren Gutshall, Communications Director with APSCUF, calls unfair negotiations.
“The faculty have now been working 16 months without a contract, and negotiations are moving at a very slow pace. The strike authorization vote on the campuses…is a step that faculty feel they must take because the State System is not negotiating fairly with APSCUF – in fact the System is trying to divide the union by putting proposals on the table that target our most vulnerable members. Across the State System, the vast majority of faculty are prepared to make the strike authorization vote because they understand that a “yes” vote would give APSCUF’s negotiations committee the authority it needs to call a strike if one is necessary.”
Gutshall added that faculty members understand that APSCUF leadership does not want to call a strike unless necessary and that “the decision to call a strike would not be made lightly.”
During the meeting on the 9th, PASSHE presented a new proposal to APSCUF that still continues to call for an increase in out-of-pocket healthcare costs for active members, a reduction in benefits for current employees and increased costs for retiree healthcare. Additionally, part-time temporary faculty would be placed on a lower pay scale, thus discouraging the hiring of full-time temporary employees. Distance education also continues to be a point of contention between the two sides as PASSHE seeks to eliminate distance education payments and make the teaching of distance education courses no longer voluntary.
PASSHE has rescinded its call for a 35% pay cut for temporary faculty and agreed to keep retirement benefits for same-sex domestic partners. According to the APSCUF web site, while these are positive movements in negotiations with PASSHE, the contract proposed by PASSHE is still considered “overwhelmingly concessionary.”
The next meeting is set for December 11th in Harrisburg. Meanwhile, APSCUF will go ahead with the strike authorization vote this week and votes will be tallied this Friday.
Alyssa Röhricht blogs at Crash Culture: Political Train Wrecks for Political Junkies