Teacher walkout possible at Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities

(Image via passhe.edu)

(Image via passhe.edu)

Ongoing contract negotiations between Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities and its faculty union are hitting a wall, according to officials from both sides of the table.

Meanwhile, professors in the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties cast their votes Wednesday through Friday on whether to stage a walkout.

Although the union has voted on whether to strike several times before, a walkout has never actually happened. But union president Kenneth Mash said the two camps have never been more at odds than they are now.

He said sticking points include the education system’s bid to have more grad students teach classes and to increase adjuncts’ workload without upping pay.

“What they’ve done all along the way is not been serious about negotiations, and put things on the table that are just meant to be insulting and infuriating,” he said of the school system. “The truth of the matter is that none of us should be in this position. They should be negotiating fairly.”

Kenn Marshall, spokesman for the state System of Higher Education, took issue with that characterization.

He said while system officials have continued to meet with union leaders, the union has failed to produce concrete contract proposals.

He also said that Mash’s complaint about adjunct pay isn’t valid, saying the proposal — instead of increasing the adjuncts’ total duties — would shift them away from research and toward teaching.

According to Marshall, such changes are necessary. The state higher education system, he said, is in its worst financial situation ever.

“That’s not an overstatement,” he added. “We are receiving the same level of funding from the state that we did back in 1999. And that doesn’t even take into account inflation … that’s obviously affecting these negotiations.”

Mash said he doesn’t see that as a legitimate excuse.

“It is the responsibility of the university president to make sure that the resources are there in order to be able to properly run our system,” he said. “If the chancellor’s going to come out and say that he’s going to be, up front, ineffective at convincing the Legislature that we need additional funds, then I think that’s a serious issue.”

Union members have been without a contract for more than a year.

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