College Faculty Weighs Strike

Article excerpt

Leaders of a union that represents 6,000 professors and coaches at Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities will meet on Saturday in State College to initiate procedures for a strike vote, a spokesman for the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties said Wednesday.

The meeting is spurred by a letter from State System of Higher Education Chancellor John Cavanaugh that rejected the union's request to send the protracted contract dispute to binding arbitration.

Negotiators are close to agreement on a wage package similar to the four-year agreement between the state and its workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which called for raises of 10.75 percent over the life of the contract.

Faculty compensation ranges from an average annual base salary of $104,305.13 for full professors to $46,379.66 for instructors.

But the sides are bitterly divided over retirement health care benefits and compensation for temporary or adjunct faculty members, which is based on each class taught.

Union spokeswoman Lauren Gutshall said its leaders are prepared to take a strike authorization vote that would trigger votes by members at the 14 campuses including Indiana, California and Slippery Rock universities in Western Pennsylvania.

"The faculty want to settle a fair contract," Gutshall said.

Mark Staszkiewicz, an IUP professor who heads the local union at Indiana, said the state system's proposals -- one of which he said calls for temporary faculty to take on additional duties or receive less pay and another that would have new employees pay toward retiree health benefits -- would set up a two-tiered system. Current employees would earn retiree health benefits at no cost to them, and temporary faculty, who teach many of the same courses as tenure track faculty, would be compensated on a reduced basis. …