Clarion University Faculty Set To Take Streets As Strike Looms

CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – With a strike looming by APSCUF educators next week and the State System of Higher Education down to the last few days of negotiations, Clarion APSCUF President Ray Feroz announced there will be a march and rally on Monday morning.

“Today, we are 472 days without a contract and five days from a strike,” Feroz said. “Today, we moved the APSCUF office off grounds.  The APSCUF and SSHE negotiators are scheduled to meet Friday through Sunday in Harrisburg, and we hope that will result in an agreement.”

“Failing that, we will take to the streets Monday to show our desire for a settlement and avoidance of a strike at 5:00 a.m., Wednesday, October 19.”

The march will begin at 11:30 a.m. Monday in front Carrier Hall; 11:45 a.m. in front of Eagle Commons; 12:15 p.m. in front of Carlson Library; and 12:45 at the Gemmell-Tippin outside performance area.

“We will be demonstrating and handing out literature,” Feroz said. “We invite all faculty and even students to join us at any time or location during the rally and march.  We will have signs and literature to hand out.  Join us!  Make a statement that will be heard in Harrisburg!”

Feroz did say that if an agreement is reached this weekend, the rally and march will not be held.

The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculty (APSCUF) and the Pa. State System of Higher Education have been negotiating since the end of 2014. Faculty members have been working under an expired contract since June 2015.

Faculty members voted last month to authorize APSCUF leadership to set a strike date. On September 23, after a four-day negotiating session, APSCUF set October 19 for a walkout if an agreement is not reached by then.

SSHE officials say decreasing enrollments and increasing tuition have left them trying to find ways to save money.

Officials from APSCUF says SSHE proposals will lower the quality of education and thus, enrollment.

“Their proposed treatment of our adjunct faculty continues to be extremely troubling,” Dr. Jamie Martin, APSCUF vice president and negotiations team chairman, said last month.

“At the bargaining table, they once said they wanted to turn our temporary faculty into ‘teaching machines’ by suggesting that their salaries be cut or their workload be increased by 20 percent. They actually said that. I was disgusted by their disdain. My colleagues are hardworking teachers and researchers who provide valuable service to our students and our universities. We are anything but ‘teaching machines.’”

Last month, after negotiators expressed their frustration, the State System caucused for nearly four hours, after which the State System withdrew a number of its 249 proposals from the table. Most significant, the System withdrew its proposal to have newer graduate students teach courses.

Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education has proposed raising faculty pay by nearly 12 percent while seeking contractual changes that would preserve quality and affordability for students and their families—even amid unprecedented fiscal challenges.

The pay package currently on the table for consideration by the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties would raise faculty salaries by a combined $159 million over the life of the proposed contract.

State System faculty are among the highest paid in the nation, ranking in the top 10 to 15 percent among their peers at similar public colleges and universities. The average total earnings of a full-time faculty member at a System university last year was just under $100,000.00, not including benefits.

“We want our students, their parents, and the public to have as much information as possible about these negotiations and the potential strike that has been announced by the faculty union,” said State System spokesman Kenn Marshall. “We are eager to return to the bargaining table to continue working with the faculty union to finalize an agreement. We have informed APSCUF that we are ready to stay at the table to make it happen. We must remain at the table until we reach a deal. Our students deserve nothing less.”

In an attempt to narrow the focus of negotiations and to move the two sides closer to an agreement, the System has made a number of revisions to the comprehensive proposal it presented to APSCUF in June, even withdrawing some suggested provisions the union opposed.

The two sides have reached tentative agreement on a variety of issues related to performance reviews and evaluation of faculty, workload and workload equivalents, unpaid educational leaves, and teaching at locations off campus.

The State System has offered faculty raises ranging from 7.25 percent (plus additional cash payments totaling 5 percent) up to 17.25 percent over three years in exchange for healthcare plan changes and other contractual changes that would help produce needed cost savings for the universities and give them greater flexibility, while enhancing students’ educational experiences.

The proposed healthcare plan changes would increase the share of the premium paid by faculty members from 15 percent to 18 percent, which would cost faculty about $7 to $14 more every two weeks.

Other plan adjustments would include new deductible and co-insurance requirements for some medical services and higher prescription drug co-payments.

The proposed changes are identical to those applied in January to all other employee groups covered by the plan, including university health center nurses; campus police and security officers; and all State System employees not represented by a union, including the chancellor, university presidents and other administrators and managers.

They also are similar to changes agreed to earlier this year by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the state’s largest union, in negotiations with the commonwealth. The State System has about 4,000 employees who are represented by AFSCME.

“We’re returning to the table because we are committed to our students and quality education, and it’s time to get this done,” APSCUF President Dr. Kenneth M. Mash said. “Our students and faculties have been through enough. We will do all we can to get a contract that is fair to students and to members. That’s our goal: A fair contract, not a strike.”

But APSCUF negotiators head into these talks deeply disappointed, Mash said.

“Yesterday the State System published proposals on its website that reiterate their team’s desire to cut the pay of our adjunct faculty, who are our most vulnerable colleagues,” he said. “Officially they call it a ‘change in workload,’ but everyone can see through that spin. The fact is that the State System wants to cut adjunct pay 20 percent.

“Eighty percent of adjuncts are at the bottom of the instructor pay scale, and they’ll always be at the bottom. And 60 percent are women. We will not stand for a contract that treats our adjuncts so unfairly and that could, should they have families, put them below the poverty line. We remain shocked that anyone involved with the System or our universities would advocate such a proposal.”

Information about the System’s negotiations with APSCUF can be found at www.passhe.edu/negotiations.

To view the updated Frequently Asked Questions, go to: www.passhe.edu/FactCenter/Pages/FAQs.aspx.

APSCUF represents about 5,500 faculty and coaches at the State System universities: Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock, and West Chester Universities of Pennsylvania.


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