Dr. Rodney Mader explains to students the basic issues of current negotiations. CORRECTION to email address in video: please direct emails to Peter Garland – email@example.com.
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Dr. Lisa Millhous is the chapter president of WCU’s faculty union (APSCUF). She is a tenured faculty member in the Communication Studies Department and has been employed at WCU since 1999. In the following blog she offers a personal explanation for why faculty care enough to strike.
I don’t want to strike. My career is in educating students, and a work stoppage does just the opposite. But I teach my students to stand up for themselves, to know their worth, and to be bold in their leadership. At some point, I have to follow my own teaching and take a stand.
As the Spring semester starts, there are still unresolved issues on the table. These issues cut at the very foundation of my job. For me, these are strikable issues.
Class size and modality(face-to-face or distance education) impact what I do every day of the semester. Students know that when class size grows their learning decreases. More students means less time for each one of them. Students know that modality matters for their learning experience.
The administration wants to increase class size or assign a modality without involvement of the faculty. Their argument is that these are financial decisions – independent of teaching or disciplinary expertise. Certainly there are budgetary implications, but faculty are highly skilled experts at what they do. We know what classes work best face-to-face (vs. distance education) and what courses are best in larger or smaller sections. These decisions depend on the discipline and the curricular goals. Faculty need to be involved in the decision, or class sizes will continue to increase as they have every year since I started teaching. Faculty must take a stand on class size and distance education, because that is where students would be hurt the most: in their learning.
Health care (current and retiree) is a critical part of my salary. Over the past few decades, I have watched inflation erode my salary. My union has purposely traded salary increases to preserve my medical benefits. Now the administration wants to make me pay extra for my healthcare, eating away even more of my salary. My health is something I care about.
The administration is blaming the faculty, but we have saved the State System money, and we continue to suggest ways more savings could occur. For the 2003 contract the union hired a healthcare consultant who has saved the System thousands of dollars because the health provider was overbilling them. In 2011 the union recommended that the State System explore self-insurance, because we believe it will save thousands of dollars, but they refused to consider it.
The blame hurts most because the System has failed to negotiate healthcare and/or retirement packages for 3 other bargaining groups. Instead those groups agreed to take whatever the faculty got – so the faculty are put in a position of negotiating healthcare for a much larger group of employees. The System claims the faculty refused to take the healthcare package that other state employees have (the Pennsylvania Employees Benefit Trust Fund, PEBTF). The truth is they never offered the PEBTF package to the faculty nor have they made a comparable offer of self-funded insurance like PEBTF. This is not a fair way to bargain.
Further, the administration wants me to trade the healthcare of future retirees to keep my own retirement benefits. I am already the beneficiary of the faculty before me, who negotiated my retirement benefits into the faculty contract before I was hired. They could have sold me out to keep their own benefits, but they didn’t. As a faculty member, I am an architect of the future. Why would I agree to a contract that purposely creates deep inequities, degrades my profession, and damages high-quality, affordable public education?
If WCU can’t attract and retain good faculty because the salary and benefits are not competitive – and because they will be teaching large classes in modalities for which they were not trained – won’t that hurt our students?
I don’t want to strike. I want to encourage and support my students to become a bright future for Pennsylvania. But if I have to strike to protect those students’ education, then it is clear to me what I have to do.
Join with me in asking that this contract be settled before my colleagues and I must take this action: Email Chancellor Cavanaugh (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Interim Chancellor Garland (email@example.com).
The following are a brief synopsis and answers to some frequently asked questions about the possible strike at WCU. Note, APSCUF is the union that represents both faculty and coaches on our campus and is negotiating two different contracts with the Chancellor of PASSHE. Neither is settled as of this posting, but the questions below refer to the faculty contract only.
How long has this been going on? The faculty have have worked for 18 months since their contract expired. Part of the reason that this has taken so long is because Chancellor John Cavanaugh repeatedly sends his negotiators to the table without information. So, although we meet to resolve our differences, the state bargaining team is typically unprepared to offer counter-proposals or even respond to proposals we have made.
What are the issues that the two sides disagree on? Of course, both sides can change their offers at any time so the disagreement continually evolves and changes. There has been general agreement on faculty compensation, except for the issue of pay for part-time adjunct faculty. Faculty continue to push for conditions that will maintain quality education at the university. Faculty are concerned that we have some say in how large our classes are; we want responsible use of distance education that gives faculty funding to develop interesting and interactive online courses; we are concerned that the Chancellor is unfairly shifting the costs of our healthcare; and we want a healthcare program that will allow us to retire (rather than work into retirement to afford healthcare). All of these issues affect whether or not WCU can recruit and retain the best faculty for students to learn from, and whether your classroom environment will be the quality you expect from West Chester University.
What can I do? Write to Chancellor John Cavanaugh (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let him know that it is important to you that he bargain in good faith and reach an agreement before the Spring semester begins. Visit PAstudentsvoice.org to sign up to receive updates (there is also a Facebook page and Twitter feed). Read the latest updates at the APSCUF blog.
What would happen if the faculty went on strike during the semester? Classes would not meet during a strike. All of the non-faculty employees at WCU are required to work, so buildings would be open and offices would still function. Faculty would form picket lines to block certain campus entrances. Once the strike was settled or called off, classes would resume and the President of the university would make a decision about whether to extend the semester or how to make up the missed days.
Would a strike prevent me from graduating? Faculty build our careers by graduating students like you who go on to have their own careers; We are doing everything we can to avoid harming your graduation. However, if we go on strike, we don’t entirely control the length of the strike, nor do we make the decision about how the semester will be made up. If WCU does not honor your tuition payment by providing you with the instruction for you to earn the credits, then you would have grounds to request your tuition back (even if it is past the deadline for refunds).
But the best thing you can do is help the faculty prevent a strike by contacting the Chancellor, having your parents contact him, and asking your PA legislators to advocate on your behalf. The faculty care about the quality of education at WCU — your education. Will you stand with us?
A recent post on the APSCUF-KUXchange by friend and colleague Amy Lynch-Biniek. In a nutshell, she describes how the current PASSHE proposals regarding adjunct faculty hurt our adjunct brothers and sisters, our students, our departments, and our system.
To borrow a turn of phrase, you can tell a lot about a college by the way it treats its adjuncts. If you read the PASSHE Negotiation Objectives recently distributed to KU faculty via email (referred to parenthetically in this post as “Letter”), you are likely angered and dismayed by most if not all of their positions. For a moment, I’d like you to consider the repercussions of one element of their attack on quality education, their proposed treatment of contingent faculty. And make no mistake: the use and treatment of these faculty does indeed affect and reflect the education the state makes available to students.
Before I came to Kutztown University, I had been an adjunct at several colleges, though “adjunct” became a ridiculous term when I was running the writing center, directing the theater production and teaching several classes at a single institution on three “part-time” contracts. One…
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Our colleague Dr. Kevin Mahoney from KU says a lot here that I would also have said. He says it somewhat more savvily than I was going to, so I’m just reposting his version of it.
APSCUF and PASSHE negotiators met Friday, September 14, at the Dixon Center in Harrisburg. The Chancellor’s team passed a proposal on retrenchment language and made suggestions for future bargaining sessions. APSCUF caucused and responded to their proposal in writing. The two sides reconvened and failed to come to agreement on the language, but agreed to session definitions for the next two times: on Oct. 5th APSCUF will present on curriculum, class size, and distance education and on Oct. 22nd the Chancellor’s team will discuss temporary workload and concessions on retiree health care. There was neither discussion of nor progress made on the Chancellor’s team’s demand for concessions on distance education, active and retiree health care, and temporary faculty workload.
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I have the opportunity to pass along some good news on a non-political issue, so I couldn’t pass it up. As you know our union is mainly visible when we are fighting for the respect that we deserve, given the important work that we do preparing future generations. In order to demonstrate that APSCUF is also a contributing member of our community we sponsor a variety of activities to promote goodwill and positive public relations. In the past we have sponsored conferences, inter-union activities, and also local sports teams.
This year two of the teams we sponsored have been very successful and we want to encourage them, and let them know we are proud of them—not just how they play, but how hard they work and their demonstration that solidarity and teamwork can make a difference.
First, the Senior Little League softball team we sponsored through the West Bradford Youth Association won their district championship and is raising money to go to Mansfield for the State championship this weekend. The team consists of 11 girls: most will be in 9th or 10th grade next year and several are looking at WCU for post-secondary school. (This team is one of three youth teams that we sponsored this year through West Bradford, though this team is unique in that it is both the regular season team and the all-star tournament team.) https://www.wepay.com/donations/wb-seniors-going-to-states; Photo: http://www.eteamz.com/westbradfordlittleleague/
Second, we sponsored the APSCUF Rams – a team of faculty, coaches, and some others – whose success in the hard-fought regular season of the Chester County Co-ed Softball League earned them a place in the play-offs. They won the first of two post-season playoff rounds: they beat another team in a best-of-3 series, and now go on to play the #1 seed in a best-of-5 series. They won their first game on Sunday and will play the remaining games locally if you are able to go to cheer them on. (Game 2: Thurs 7/19 7:45 p.m. Westtown Complex, upper field; Game 3: TBD; Game 4: Sun 7/22 6 p.m. upper field; Game 5: Wed 7/25 6:15 p.m. lower field) http://www.cccesl.com/stats.asp
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t congratulate our APSCUF coaches, whose efforts resulted in a very strong standing among Division II schools this year. Certainly their work promoting our institution and the demonstration of solidarity and teamwork is an inspiration – in spite of working without a contract! http://www.dailylocal.com/article/20120613/SPORTS02/120619833/wcu-among-top-d-ii-programs-in-nation
I hope this finds you enjoying your summer and doing what you need to do to prepare for the Fall. We are a strong union and I am grateful to the many efforts of all of you that build our solidarity and teamwork.
Many of you are aware that Upper Darby is cutting all elementary physical education, art, and music (they will retain 3 instrumental teachers – for 10 elementary schools). They are eliminating technology and foreign languages at higher levels. They cut 40 positions last year; next year looks even grimmer.
If you’d like to join a Harrisburg protest for this school district – and for public education at all levels – please show up on Weds 6/6 in Harrisburg – at the Capitol, at approximately 9:30 a.m. See “Harrisburg – Upper Darby Style” on Facebook.