To Faculty and Students,
This week, WCU professors have an opportunity to vote in favor of a strike authorization for their union, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF). I strongly urge my colleagues to support the union in this vote, and I would like to explain to students what is at stake and why this vote is being held.
A strike authorization does NOT mean that there will be a strike. The authorization only empowers union negotiators to call a strike. A strike is an act of last resort, and we want to assure students and faculty members that the union is doing everything it can to avoid a strike.
The APSCUF union leadership shares the same priorities as WCU faculty members: We value our students and the quality of higher education. Both of these priorities are at risk, however, because PASSHE refuses to discuss faculty control over issues that are critical to educational quality at WCU, including curricular issues and class size. Each year, Pennsylvania’s governor proposes less and less funding to the state universities, cuts that will inevitably lead to higher tuition, larger class sizes and a reduction in the quality of higher education. A strike authorization can help faculty maintain educational quality here at the university.
Despite the fact that WCU faculty have been working without a contract for more than a year, PASSHE negotiators have shown no indication that they will bargain in good faith. APSCUF has already agreed with PASSHE on salary for permanent faculty, but many issues remain unresolved, and PASSHE has been unrealistic and intractable.
How unrealistic? The state’s current proposal demands a 35 percent reduction in the salary of adjunct professors, some of the hardest-working instructors on our campus. The proposed offer is so low, many of these adjunct professors would qualify for federal assistance if the salaries were approved. The state also proposes a voucher system for retiree’s health benefits – professors who have spent their entire careers teaching students at WCU are being asked to take enormous reductions in an important benefit that they have already earned.
How intractable is PASSHE? When unions and management can not come to an agreement, it is common for both to agree to bring in a third party to break the impasse by determining a fair settlement, a process called binding arbitration. Months ago, the union agreed to participate in this process. PASSHE refused to agree to binding arbitration, which should give you a clear indication of which side is bargaining in good faith.
Without a strike authorization, APSCUF has been unable to convince state negotiators to move toward a reasonable resolution of these issues. With a strike authorization, the impasse can be resolved. APSCUF recognizes that the threat of a strike is extremely worrisome to students, and we know for many of you the continuity of the term is the most important consideration. But we ask for your understanding and support, so that you can help us to maintain educational quality at WCU for you and the students who follow you. Please contact to Chancellor John Cavanaugh at firstname.lastname@example.org and urge him to negotiate a fair contract as quickly as possible. For faculty members, please vote to authorize an APSCUF strike this week, and demonstrate your commitment to your students, your fellow professors, and quality education.
Dr. Edward J. Lordan
Dept of Communication Studies