A vote is set next to approve a strike authorization in the event that negotiations breakdown in the long-standing contract dispute between the APSCUF faculty union and the PASSHE board of governors. Should the APSCUF vote to authorize a strike, then by June 30, thousands of Pennsylvania state school system students could find themselves sitting at home rather than taking summer courses or preparing for the fall 2007 semester.
Dr. Cheryl Wanko, the spokeswoman for the faculty at West Chester University, and an English professor at West Chester University, said she saw little progress at the April fourth meetings and conceded that the APSCUF and PASSHE are still a long ways off from deciding on a new contract.
“It’s an attack on faculty self-governance,” said Wanko, who notes that progress in contract negotiations hasn’t been made in six months. For the strike authorization vote next week, Wanko is ‘anticipating a strong showing.’
The main sticking point is faculty and staff salaries. State school salaries are lagging behind other schools both statewide and nationally, and have consistently failed to keep up with inflation. The current submitted budget shows no rise in salary for teachers throughout the next year. Form 2002-2006, teacher salaries have gone up only 3.3 percent which is an 8 percent loss to inflation.
This has led to an exodus of teachers from the state school system. Since 2002, 903 faculty members have left and only 555 tenure track faculty have been hired, yet, since 1995, the number of administrators has gone up 16.77 percent and their salary is up 13.7 percent from 2002 to an average of $73,396.
Also at issue is the increase of adjunct faculty. Adjunct faculty are hired to temporary positions, and now occupy 40 percent of West Chester University’s faculty. The result is fewer advisors for students, and increased workload for faculty, and less committee members to aid clubs and organizations on campus. In all, since 2002, permanent faculty has gone down 7 percent.
A rise in adjunct faculty would cause a decrease in union members and a possible rise in class sizes. Wanko fears this could cause a strain on effective teaching. “Why would you be working against the faculty?” said Wanko.
The balance of funding from Harrisburg has been shifting from state schools to state affiliated schools like Temple, Penn, and Pittsburgh.
The 1999 budget for teacher salaries represented 41.91 percent, but in 2004, that number dropped to 34.23 percent.
A rise is teachers salaries would not necessarily mean a rise in tuition for students. And vice-versa, a rise in tuition would not amount necessarily lead to a rise is teachers salaries.
Recently, a bill has been introduced to ban strikes in Pa. Pa. is one of only nine states in the country that still allows teachers to strike, and has become known at the “teacher strike capital of the world.”
On a bill banning strikes, Wanko said, “You take away an important tool for negotiations. If your morale is already weakening…where do you go to?”
Students can help APSCUF by writing letters and sending emails to the state legislature, the PASSHE Board of Governors, Chancellor of PASSHE Judy Hample. Students may picket with faculty and staff.
While APSCUF has begun making preparations for a strike, the deadline for a strike is still not set in stone. While the contract may expire on June 30, that does not necessarily mean a strike will occur then.
Regardless of all the tough talk, Dr. Wanko assured students that, “The faculty do not want to strike.