Pennsylvania professors gather for strike vote

Pennsylvania professors are taking the first step toward something they have never done: strike.  Delegates from the union representing faculty at Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities will meet tomorrow in State College for a strike authorization vote. 

Karen Ball is vice chancellor of external relations for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, which represents West Chester, Cheyney, Millersville and other state-owned universities in Pennsylvania.  She said the two sides disagree on health care, retiree benefits and pay for temporary faculty.

“We have come close on compensation,” said Ball. “We are looking to align the healthcare for these employees with the healthcare plan that the Governor and about 80,000 state employees have including about 4,500 in our system.”

Ball stressed that the vote is just a step in the process and says students should keep going to class.

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On Monday, state higher education officials declined the union’s offer for binding arbitration.

Lauren Gutshall is the Director of Communications for the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, which represents professors a institutions such as Cheyney and West Chester.  She said the union does not want to go on strike, but wants a fair deal.

“Faculty have been negotiating with the state system for about 22 months now and they’ve been working without a contract for the last 15 months,” said Gutshall.

The union’s last contract expired in June 2011.

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