APSCUF Coaches Have Not Set Strike Date; Faculty/State System Resume Negotiations After Unfair-Labor-Practice Charges Filed
HARRISBURG, Pa. – While faculty members in the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) have set an Oct 19 strike date, the coaches have not despite a strike authorization vote.
According to APSCUF spokesperson Kathryn Morton, the coaches have authorized their leadership to strike but a strike date has not been set.
“They are separate bargaining units under separate contracts,” Morton said.
The coaches last met with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Monday, Sept. 26, and Tuesday, Sept. 27, and are scheduled to meet again Monday, Oct. 3.
“We had two really productive days with a lot of progress made,” John Gump, the APSCUF Coach Executive Leader, said following the Sept. 27 session at the Dixon University Center in Harrisburg. “The sides are much, much closer than we’ve been at any point in the last 455 days.”
According to Gump, the coaches submitted a comprehensive proposal, including wage and health care proposals, to the State System and expects a response when the two sides meet Oct. 3.
“There’s still work to do and issues to be addressed,” Gump said. “But, I’m hopeful we can continue to make progress when we get back together.”
The coaches have been without a contract since June 30, 2015, and have been in ongoing negotiations with the State System since last 2014.
Steve Murray, the commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Athletics Conference (PSAC), whose conference has 16 of its 20 member schools in the State System, echoed Gump’s positive outlook.
“I’m hearing positive stuff on the coaches side of the discussion, so I am far less concerned than I was say a week ago,” Murray said.
While Murray is more positive than he was in the past, he also said the PSAC is prepared if the coaches do strike and teams don’t play.
“If schools don’t show up, they would be forced to forfeit the event,” Murray said. “Also, an NCAA postseason ban would be put in place for any school that does not meet the mandated conference schedule.”
David Love, a Clarion University spokesperson, said the school is working on a contingency plan if the coaches strikes.
“The details are not set yet,” Love said. “A lot of it will depend on the length of the strike, if one occurs, which is why any contingency plan announced now could change.”
Murray said teams could show up without coaches, even though the conference cautions against it.
“We’d caution against not having a ‘coach’ be there,” Murray said. “But that is an institutional decision.”
Murray said in a case of a strike, the conference would ask the Vice Presidents at the affected the schools to report daily as to the the “availability” of a team.
“It’s doubtful we’d make an (away) team actually travel,” Murray when asked how a team would be determined to be a no show. “Both teams would forfeit and we would run the the PSAC Tournaments based on win/loss percentage.”
While the PSAC would recognize a team as having a forfeit, NCAA statistical policy would consider the games as “no play”.
Morton said the coaches are aware of the PSAC’s stance and that is one of the reasons they are working hard at getting a settlement.
“APSCUF coaches know what it means to be part of a team,” Morton said. That is why they are negotiating to try to achieve a fair contract and avoid a strike.”
PROFESSORS RETURN TO BARGAINING TABLE THURSDAY UNDER CLOUD OF UNFAIR-LABOR-PRACTICE CHARGES
While the coaches seem upbeat on where their negotiations stand, the negotiations between the faculty and the State System resumed Thursday under a darker cloud after APSCUF filed an unfair-labor-practice charge against the State System last week.
APSCUF’s unfair-labor-practice filing charges the State System with failure to negotiate in good faith when “it bargained superficially and regressed in its offers during their latest sessions”.
According to APSCUF, while negotiations have been ongoing since late 2014, the State System did not put a comprehensive proposal on the table until June, and that proposal contained 249 significant changes. Subsequent adjustments to State System proposals have been progressively incendiary APSCUF President Ken Mash said.
A call to the State System for a response on the unfair-labor-act charge wasn’t immediately returned Thursday.
Despite the seemingly contentious nature of negotiations, both sides vowed to remain at the bargaining table.
“Although we have been treated unfairly, I pledge to keep going to the table for the sake of our students and our universities,” Mash said. “We just hope we will not be met with more of PASSHE’s cynical showboating.”
In a media release, State System Spokesperson Kenn Marshall said the System is ready to stay at the bargaining table until an agreement is reached.
“This is too important to our students and faculty,” Marshall said. “We need to make progress. We look forward to continuing discussions and are hopeful we can move toward an agreement.”
Thursday’s bargaining session was the first between the sides since Sept. 21 when, after meeting five times in a week, the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement.
But the negotiations didn’t go as well as hoped.
“When we began, the State System immediately demanded we make cuts totaling $70 million,” Mash said. “That is not bargaining. That is dictating. We understand there are fiscal issues to consider, but on most of the core issues, the State System continues to insist on cuts that hinder our ability to provide a quality education for our students.”
According to Jamie Martin, APSCUF’s vice president and chair of the negotiations team, a concerning aspect for the union is the State System’s treatment of adjunct faculty.
“Their proposed treatment of our adjunct faculty continues to be extremely troubling,” Martin said. “At the bargaining table, they once said they wanted to turn our temporary faculty into ‘teaching machines’ by suggesting that their salaries be cut or their workload be increased by 20 percent. They actually said that. I was disgusted by their disdain. My colleagues are hardworking teachers and researchers who provide valuable service to our students and our universities. We are anything but ‘teaching machines.’”
The two sides are scheduled to meet Oct. 14–16, the later date just three days before a possible strike. APSCUF offered to meet Oct. 8–9, which is a weekend faculty negotiators don’t teach, but the State System reportedly rejected those dates according to the union.
“This is not a game,” Mash said, referring to the Oct. 19 strike date APSCUF announced last week. “This is going to be very, very hard, given that most of the most-controversial items are still on the table.”
Like the coaches, the faculty have been without a contract since June 30, 2015. But unlike the coaches, faculty members say they will go on strike if an agreement is not reached by Oct. 19.
APSCUF represents about 5,500 faculty and coaches at the State System universities: Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock, and West Chester Universities of Pennsylvania.
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