APSCUF is considering passing a strike authorization after contract negotiations with PASSHE continue for over two years with little progress.
Dr. Patrick Burkhart, professor of geology and President of the SRU chapter of Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) that negotiations have changed within the last month, but not for the better.
Recently APSCUF requested binding interest arbitration as a way to settle the contract negotiations that have lasted since 2010.
A binding interest arbitration is when both sides turn over their documentation of the negotiations to a third party. The third party finds a middle ground between the desires of both APSCUF and Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), and then reaches an agreement. Because it is a binding agreement, both parties must accept what the third party has decided on.
“As the provost says, a contract negotiation is like a good divorce,” Burkhart said. “At the end of a good divorce, everybody is mad. Nobody gets everything that they want. Everybody’s mad. Mad but teaching, mad but administrating, mad but working.”
PASSHE declined the request for the binding interest arbitration, and sent PASSHE chancellor Dr. John Cavanaugh sent a press release explaining the reasoning.
“We believe it would be improper to delegate those responsibilities to a third party arbitrator who does not have the responsibility or duty to consider the financial implications of their decisions and who is not obligated to take into account the interests of Pennsylvania taxpayers or the long-term effects of those decisions on the Commonwealth or PASSHE,” the press release stated.
Burkhart explained that APSCUF will be holding a meeting Saturday where they will most likely vote on and pass strike authorization vote. A strike authorization is an agreement to start considering going on strike in order to increase the amount of pressure to reach a decision.
“The truth of the matter is, everything we do, we do because we do not want to strike,” Burkhart explained. “The facility wants to teach. Nobody wants to strike. So we try to do everything we can before it gets to that point, but in the end, that is the only leverage that we have. It’s the only thing that we can do to really push things along.”
Burkhart wants students to be actively involved with the contract negotiations. He explained that students were able to work together to eliminate Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed cuts to education, and that students could influence the negotiations by contacting chancellor Cavanaugh.
“What I really want from the students is to say to the state system is, ‘for goodness sakes, stop stressing us out. Settle the contract and lets put all these conversations about strikes to rest,’” said Burkhart. “I want the students to advocate for a resolution. I want resolution.”
APSCUF members handed out fliers to students in the quad Tuesday in order to raise awareness about the negotiations. Next Tuesday, Student Government Association will hand out fliers about the implications of a strike authorization.
“I really hope [students] want a quality education,” Burkhart explained. “Affordable, tolerant, public education. If they’re not willing to exercise their voice that they want that, there’s a good chance that they’re going to have less of it.”