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Contract negotiations: Strike vote in November

Brandon Lesko
Assoc. Opinion Editor

After a week spent under the looming anxiety of a potential faculty strike it appears that picket lines will not be adorning the sidewalks of universities across the state – yet.
On Saturday, Oct. 20 the leaders of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) unanimously approved a strike authorization vote in State College, Pa.
This move came less than a week after the refusal by the State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) to participate in binding arbitration to settle the contract dispute between PASSHE and APSCUF that has left faculty without a new contract for 15months.
APSCUF, which represents 6,000 faculty and coaches across all 14 state-run universities, had originally presented PASSHE with the offer for binding arbitration, a process that would expedite the negotiation process by assigning an impartial third party to decide the outcome of negotiations for both parties, on Sept. 15.
PASSHE’s rejection of arbitration came on the basis that “it would be improper to delegate those responsibilities to a third party arbitrator who does not have the responsibility or duty to consider the financial implications of their decisions and who is not obligated to take into account the interests of Pennsylvania taxpayers or the long-term effects of those decisions on the Commonwealth or PASSHE,” according to an Oct. 17 press release issued by Dr. John Cavanaugh, chancellor of PASSHE.
Historically, contracts between APSCUF and PASSHE have never been settled by the use of binding arbitration.
When the 106 APSCUF delegates met in State College over the weekend to vote on the strike authorization, it marked the fourth time in as many contract talks that union leaders have authorized a strike.
“Almost all other unions have settled their contracts, there’s a pattern among them. For APSCUF, fair means what’s consistent with that pattern,” said Dr. Chuck Ward, Millersville’s APSCUF chapter president and philosophy department chair. “The disagreements are mostly between pay for temporary faculty, health care benefits and distance education.”
He also stated that though PASSHE has moved their position on salary, they want APSCUF to give in on health care and temporary pay. Something none of the other bargaining units were asked to do.
“There is a contingency plan in place by the University,” said Breaux. “The University plans to continue to operate in case of a strike, but we are hopeful, because negotiations are continuing, that they will reach a positive conclusion and this will get resolved.”
The specifics of that contingency plan could not be obtained due to the sensitivity and ever-changing nature of the situation.
Both speakers stressed to students that this dispute is not between the members of the faculty and Millersville’s, or anyother PASSHE school’s, administration. “This is a negotiation between the leaders of APSCUF and the administrators at PASSHE,” said Ward.
Before students need to start worrying about whether or not to show up to class, APSCUF will still need to hold a full-membership vote on the strike authorization. All 6,000 members should be expected to vote on the measure in November, according to an Oct. 20 APSCUF press release. If approved, union leaders would then hold the power to call a strike if necessary.
In an interview with Ward, he highlighted the fact that as long as negotiations continue and show some progress, a strike will not be called.
“Negotiations have not stopped. They are still ongoing,” said Ward. “APSCUF feels they need to demonstrate their unity and resolve for reaching a fair resolution to these issues.”