HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS/AP) — Faculty members at Pennsylvania’s 14 state universities have voted to call for a strike, but the union representing them said Monday they’ll keep working with the state system to resolve their disagreements, calling a strike a “last resort.”
“Ninety-three percent of our faculty voted to give the leadership of our association the authority to call strikes, should we deem it necessary,” said Kenneth Mash, president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties.
Mash says the vote is the third of multiple steps before a faculty job action could commence. The remaining steps include committee approvals and setting a strike date.
“We’ve been working 450 days under an expired contract, we’ve been negotiating for two years,” he said. “We didn’t want to take a step like this, but it looks like we’re going to be pushed in that direction.”
Mash added the faculty leaders will not set a strike date until they meet for negotiations at least one more time.
The union represents about 5,500 faculty and coaches at Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock, and West Chester universities.
Coaches will vote on strike authorization on Wednesday and Thursday.
The union members are objecting to a number of the state system’s proposals including: having employees pay more toward the cost of their health insurance premiums; The system also wants temporary faculty to teach an additional course per semester, cuts to the lowest-paid faculty members’ salaries, and to no longer provide retiree health care coverage for future faculty members.
Kenn Marshall, a spokesman for the system, said Monday they are determined to stay at the table with the union to resolve their issues and “assure our students have uninterrupted access to a high-quality, affordable education.”
“While we understand the latest APCSUF vote moves the faculty union one step closer to being able to call a potential strike, we remain committed to bargaining with APSCUF to achieve an agreement that is fair to everyone.”
The next negotiation session is set for Friday.
Faculty members have been working without a contract since the last agreement expired in June 2015.
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