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State system union puts strike authorization in members’ hands

Move comes as a two-day contract-negotiation session is underway in Harrisburg

The union representing faculty and coaches at Pennsylvania’s state-owned universities will let the union’s full membership vote on whether to hold a strike.

Delegates for the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) agreed unanimously during an emergency conference call this morning to forward a strike-authorization vote to all 14 campuses next month.

The last agreement expired June 30, 2015, meaning those workers have gone 422 days without a contract, APSCUF’s website states. Negotiations began in late 2014.

Faculty members will vote Sept. 7–9, while coaches will vote Sept. 14–15. Faculty and coaches are separate bargaining units, and they must act independently, APSCUF officials said.

Union and state system officials on Wednesday stressed that classes will begin Monday as scheduled. Union officials today reiterated that point. Today’s action is the second of multiple steps required before a job action could commence, according to APSCUF, and those steps could not be completed before Monday.

“Our faculty and coaches clearly feel that the State System has not negotiated fairly; they are more interested in playing games than negotiating seriously,” APSCUF President Dr. Kenneth M. Mash said. “It is completely unfair to our students for the State System to continue to drag this process out.”

Mash says the state system “wants to have graduate students teach, increase the use of temporary faculty, force students into distance-education courses, and cut the pay for those at the very bottom of the pay scale.”

“We will, if the System gives us no other option, stand up for our students, our universities, and ourselves,” said Mash, who is a political-science professor at East Stroudsburg University.

Kenn Marshall, spokesman for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, told today that state officials have been bargaining in good faith, adding that the union has been threatening a strike since “the earliest days” of the talks.

Following the vote, teams began a two-day contract-negotiation session at the APSCUF office in Harrisburg, union officials said, adding that they will  issue a press release at the conclusion of talks on Friday.

Roger DuPuis
Roger DuPuis covers Cumberland County, health care, transportation, distribution, energy and environment. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at [email protected].

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