Wed. Jan 19th, 2022

West Chester University faculty are continuing the struggle for a contract agreement with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) following ongoing negotiations and a vote authorizing a strike.

Tensions have been mounting for faculty members in the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) who have now been working under an expired contract since June 2015.

With no contract, faculty members from all 14 of the Pennsylvania state universities, including professors on the tenure line, adjunct professors and coaches, have no way of knowing if or when they are getting a raise, if their health care is cut or if there are any changes to their salary.

Negotiations for a new contract have been in process since 2014, but only one contract proposal has come from PASSHE, which was offered up earlier this year.

According to APCSUF’s website, the contract included a zero percent raise for this year and the next, a one percent increase for 2018 and 2019 respectively, a step increase in January of the final year of the contract and a $600 one-time payment to cover the proposed healthcare plan.

The offer was rejected by APSCUF delegates shortly after it was proposed.

Ben Kuebrich, a WCU assistant professor of English and Journalism and a member of APSCUF, said that the contract also came with an estimated 10 percent pay cut.

“The deal was not realistic at all. The raise percentages offered would not be enough to keep up with yearly cost of living increases,” Kuebrich said.

While PASSHE’s proposed contract would be detrimental to all APSCUF faculty, Kuebrich said that the adjunct faculty members would take the biggest hit.

“The most appalling part for me is what they want to do to the adjuncts. Many of them teach four classes per semester like professors on the tenure line, but that’s something that the state wants to change. The proposal would cut their pay by 20 percent and increase their teaching load by 20 percent, so they would be teaching a fifth class,” Kuebrich said.

With APSCUF rejecting the deal put forth by PASSHE, a vote to authorize a strike was held on all 14 campuses from Sept. 7 to Sept. 9.

Of the 82 percent APSCUF faculty members who voted, 93 percent voted in favor of authorizing a strike. While this means that there is now a possibility of a strike, which would see classes not being held and professors not being paid, there is currently no set date for a strike to be held.

APSCUF President Kenneth Mash said that further negotiations are planned before more talks of a strike are held.

The first attempt at negotiation following the authorization vote was held on Friday in Harrisburg. In a press release, APSCUF delegates said that the meeting resulted in a “lack of progress at the bargaining table.”

Another meeting between the two sides took place on Sunday, Sept. 18.

While negotiations continue and the possibility of a strike looms overhead, professors are left to continue their work in spite of the situation.

“There’s a lot of unnecessary tension right now. These professors just want to come and teach. Going on strike is the last thing that any of us want,” Kuebrich said.

Kuebrich stated that the best way for the contract dispute to come to an end would be for students in the state universities to make their voices heard on the matter.

“The quickest resolution to this would be to have lots of students emailing PASSHE Chancellor Frank Brogan and saying that they want a reasonable contract to be made,” Kuebrich said.

Dylan Messerschmidt is a third-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at DM837837@wcupa.edu.

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