By Jim Melwert and Joe Holden
WEST CHESTER, Pa. (CBS) — Faculty and staff of the 14 state-owned universities in Pennsylvania are on the picket line today.
The work-stoppage comes after negotiations on a new labor deal broke down late last night.
More than 100,000 students across the state are left in the lurch at universities including Kutztown, Lock Haven, Millersville, Bloomsburg, Cheney.
Just shy of 16,000 students at West Chester University are affected by the strike. Hundreds of students spilled out of West Chester University buildings, joining their professors on the picket line.
“I’m pulling for them, I hope they get what they want, but at the same time it’s kind of an inconvenience for us students,” says sophomore Adam Henderson.
University spokeswoman Nancy Gainer says professors are allowed to cross the picket line.
“We’re advising students to go to class, if the professor is not there then students can leave. If the professor is there, then engage in class.”
But students like Stephanie Dugger say, “I was supposed to have a class at 8:00 but I knew my professor wasn’t going to be there so I didn’t go, and then I don’t know if I’m going to go to the rest of them.”
Students say it is difficult not knowing how long the strike will last or how it could affect classes or grades.
Gainer says, “The university is open, library is open, the residence halls are open, we have additional student activities, our health center is open, we are open for the students.”
“I’m proud of them being out here, doing what they have to do to get a fair contract,” Sunny Morgan, a sophomore student, said. Professors authorized the walkout at 5:00 a.m. on Wednesday. Educators say after 15 months and no contract, there was no other choice.
“I think everybody who made this decision, who voted in favor of this strike is conscious of the fact this causes a lot of pain,” said Dr. Edward Lordan, a professor and spokesman for the union. “We are well aware parents are upset, believe me, we are well aware of that.”
There’s no question, the strike will disrupt all classes for an unknown amount of time. And there is no plan for tuition reimbursement. Universities, like West Chester, have implemented contingency plans.
“We are confident we will be able to work with the students with their situations and the strike so they will be able to graduate,” Gainer, said.
There are questions about how long the stoppage will last.
“I’m not sure how long this is going to be going on for,” said senior Kaitlin Battiste. “I hope they meet at some sort of resolution, the sooner the better.”