The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF), which consists of faculty and coaches from Mansfield University as well as 13 other State System universities, is on strike as of Wednesday, October 19th.
The APSCUF has been without a contract since the last one expired on June 30th, 2015. However, the negotiations started at the end of 2014. The union previously said it would strike in October if there was still no contract agreement. The main issues are health care and salaries.
In a press release on Wednesday, the APSCUF explained that it had been trying to negotiate up until Tuesday evening and it will continue to be open to negotiations. The strike officially began at 5:00 a.m. on Wednesday. APSCUF President Dr. Kenneth M. Mash issued the following statement regarding the strike, “At 11:35 p.m., we made a last attempt to negotiate through back channels… We waited until 5 a.m. We are headed to the picket lines, but even on the picket lines, our phones will be on, should the State System decide it doesn’t want to abandon its students. They’ll know where to find me at 5:30 a.m. I’ll be outside the chancellor’s office at the Dixon Center on the picket line.”
From October 15th to October 17th, a news embargo was put in place as the APSCUF and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education continued contract negotiations. During that time, the negotiations could not be talked about publicly. The news embargo was lifted on October 18th.
At approximately 8:45 p.m. on October 18th, the APSCUF was given a final offer from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Also on October 18th, Mash stated that Governor Tom Wolf (D) encouraged negotiations to continue. Mash said, “[Wolf] was very clear about that. He personally spoke to both sides and urged us to settle this. I find it shocking that Chancellor Frank Brogan would spit in the governor’s eye like that. Through all of this, the governor has been a strong advocate for the students.”
The APSCUF announced that it would be endorsing Wolf for governor back in 2014. Wolf issued a statement regarding the strike on October 19th. You may read Wolf’s full statement below:
“I am extremely disappointed in the failure of PASSHE and APSCUF to reach an agreement on a contract. The resulting strike is detrimental to the system and will have far-reaching effects for years to come.
“In just under two years I have increased funding to the state system by more than $30 million, a 7.5 percent increase over 2014-15, in order to begin restoring the harmful cuts made under the previous administration.
“The shortsightedness on both sides is counter to my efforts on behalf of the system and hurts the dedicated professors and university staff, and students and their families who are paying tuition to these universities.
“Everyone’s top priority should be the students and their families who are counting on an agreement to ensure Pennsylvania continues to deliver on its promise to provide a world-class college education. I urge both sides to return to the table immediately and continue negotiations until an agreement is reached.”
Mash issued the following statement on October 19th regarding a wage package the union offered, “We offered a wage package substantially smaller than other state employees, by a factor of $31 million for a bargaining unit of more than 5,000. We accepted dramatic reductions in our healthcare coverage and accepted proposals to shift millions of dollars in healthcare costs to our members but concessions in excess of $50 million was simply not enough for a chancellor who never once appeared at negotiations and whose team walked out of bargaining many hours before the strike deadline. His behavior was irresponsible and dismissive of the needs and interests of more than 100,000 students.”
According to the APSCUF, the strike will continue until a contract is reached. The strike has far-reaching effects as over 100,000 students attend the 14 State System universities where faculty and coach members of the APSCUF are employed. In addition to Mansfield University, APSCUF members work at both Bloomsburg and Lock Haven universities.