Harrisburg – As representatives from Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education and its faculty union continue negotiations toward a new contract, State System officials assured students this week that classes will begin Monday, as scheduled, despite the union’s threat of a strike.
Leadership of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) have announced they will meet Thursday to consider calling for a strike authorization vote among the union’s full membership sometime during the fall semester. Such votes, which would give APSCUF leadership the authority to call for a walkout at any time, have become a regular part of the contract negotiations process between the union and the State System.
In fact, APSCUF has conducted similar votes during each of the last four rounds of contract negotiations with the State System. In each case, while the membership voted to grant its leadership the authority to call a strike, a faculty strike has never occurred.
“While we continue to bargain in good faith to reach a deal that is fair to everyone—most important, our students—the union has threatened our students and our universities with a strike from the earliest days of these negotiations,” said State System spokesperson Kenn Marshall. “We want to be sure our students know that, no matter what they might hear to the contrary, classes will begin on Monday.”
This week, the State System sent a message to all incoming students that read, in part:
“With classes set to begin Monday, you might have heard about the faculty union’s (APSCUF) ongoing consideration of a potential strike. First, please know that the academic year will start as planned regardless of any action the faculty union might take.”
The State System negotiates a single contract for all faculty who work at the 14 state-owned universities. It has been bargaining in good faith for nearly two years with APSCUF in an attempt to achieve a new contract to replace the last agreement, which expired June 30, 2015.
“Our faculty members are remarkable men and women who are critically important to the success of our students and our universities,” the message to students continued. “The current salaries of State System faculty are among the highest in the nation—ranking near the top 10 to 15 percent among their peers at similar public institutions—a fact acknowledged by an APSCUF campus leader and posted on the union’s website earlier this year.
“The State System is proud of the fact that our faculty are compensated so well, but we also acknowledge that rising tuition is putting a strain on students and their families. As such, we are committed to reaching an agreement that is fair to everyone—faculty and students. We will continue to work toward that goal.”
“We can only hope that APSCUF recognizes the potentially devastating impact that a strike would have on our students, and shares our commitment to continuing to bargain toward a new agreement in order to ensure there will be no interruption in the fall semester,” Marshall said.
To follow the progress of the negotiations between the State System and APSCUF, go to: http://www.passhe.edu/APSCUF.