APSCUF votes to ratify contract

Hannah Collings – Staff Writer

CLARION, Pa.- Members of the Association of Pennsylvania State College & University Faculties (APSCUF) union employed at Clarion University gathered at Carlson Library this week to take the ratification vote concerning the proposed contract with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE).

This proposed contract  followed the APSCUF faculty strike from Oct. 19-21.  The final draft of the contract which faculty from all the state system universities voted on from Dec. 5-7 was tentatively agreed upon by APSCUF negotiators and PASSHE on Oct. 21.

The tentative contract for university coaches with APSCUF was finalized on Oct. 27.

After being reviewed by legal professionals and members of the APSCUF Legislative Assembly, the contract was provided to faculty members from the 14 schools of the state system.

The results of this vote were tallied Dec. 7.  If a majority of faculty voted  in the affirmative, the contract will be binding.  Read The Clarion Call online for an update on the vote.

Liz Pelesko / The Clarion Call APSCUF members oversee faculty voting on the contract with PASSHE. Carlson Library served as the voting place for union faculty earlier this week.
Liz Pelesko / The Clarion Call
APSCUF members oversee faculty voting on the contract with PASSHE. Carlson Library served as the voting place for union faculty earlier this week.

Kathryn Morton, APSCUF associate director of communications, said that she will issue a press release with the results of the vote by Dec. 8.

PASSHE Media Relations Manager Kenn Marshall said, “We were pleased to achieve a tentative agreement with APSCUF when we did and look forward to the completion of the process.”

The details of the contract have not yet been released but were long in composition.  APSCUF and PASSHE negotiated in June.  PASSHE’s 146-page draft was refuted by APSCUF’s 7-page version, detailed a June 24 APSCUF press release.

“Those revisions represent changes in both salary and benefits terms as well as contract language related to work rules [and] conditions,” explained Marshall.

Clarion University Professor Naomi Bell O’Neil, who was on the APSCUF Mobilization Committee to prepare for the strike, affirmed, “Faculty and coaches that I have spoken to believe that this contract is a fair one.”

O’Neil also said that she has not encountered any APSCUF members who are dissatisfied with the results of the negotiations.

This new contract no longer calls for the increase in classes taught by graduate students and adjunct faculty.  The original contract proposal also sought to add to the number of classes taught per semester by full-time professors.

Many of PASSHE’s original proposals were eliminated for the final contract draft.  However, APSCUF noted in a Nov. 18 press release that during negotiations, “APSCUF agreed to a salary package that was lower than that of other unions.”

APSCUF is not the only union in contract with PASSHE.  The State System forms agreements with many university staff unions to provide services to students.  Clarion University’s healthcare employees and others are members of unions under separate agreements than APSCUF with PASSHE.

According to O’Neil, these were the primary aspects of the proposal that needed to be amended.  To many APSCUF members, demanding a higher number of classes from faculty would have compromised educational quality and been unfair to faculty.

“They teach and prepare the future leaders of America. They are worthy of an appropriate salary,” defended O’Neil.

Regardless of the specific terms of the contract, all parties seemed relieved at the short duration of the strike.  O’Neil’s initial reaction to the strikes termination was “relief.”

This sentiment was echoed by Clarion University President Karen Whitney. “My initial feeling was of great relief that faculty would be able to return to the university, and we could continue our important work with the students.

Clarion University Vice President of Student Affairs Susanne Fenske agreed.  “It was good news, getting our students back to class as quickly as possible.”

The collective decision to ratify or reject the tentative agreements of faculty and coaches with PASSHE will be revealed on Dec. 8.  These contracts, once ratified, will again be subject to negotiation in three years for faculty and four for coaches.

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