By Chris Barreto
Members of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University and Faculty (APSCUF) ratified their contract with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) on March 8.
APSCUF faculty members had voted on ratifying the contract from March 4 to March 6. The votes were counted in Harrisburg. Now that it has been ratified, the contract will not expire until June 30, 2015.
An improvement over the previous collective bargaining agreement (CAB), the new contract offers APSCUF members several new benefits that were not previously proposed. One of its more notable features is its recognition of the roles that temporary faculty members have in educating students at East Stroudsburg University (ESU). The prior contract showed less regard towards temporary faculty and, when APSCUF sought out a new contract, PASSHE attempted to pay them even less than the previous contract ensured. Thanks to the new contract, temporary faculty will receive the same pay raises as other staff members.
One of the issues that have been brought up within the CAB is class size, which is now subject to curriculum committee recommendations. The agreement also gives instructional design professionals and technical support to assist faculty to replace course development compensation.
Another example of the progress made by the contract is in its treatment of same sex couples. Dr. Nancy Van Arsdale, president of the ESU branch of APSCUF, stated, “Domestic partners (same sex couples) get treated much more fairly in this CAB than in the last one.”
While these changes might be an improvement, the contract was not without cost. In 2012, the first year that the contract was to take effect, APSCUF members accepted no pay raises. APSCUF further sacrificed for the sake of this deal by accepting a slow pay raise of one percent for the first two years that this contract takes effect, followed by an increase of two percent in the year after. These cuts were made in the face of the rough economy.
Regardless of these setbacks, Dr. Van Arsdale still views this as a good deal. During the voting process, she was confident in the contract’s success. “I think that it is likely a majority of faculty will vote yes for ratification,” she said, when asked on the subject.
Last November, APSCUF voted to authorize a strike. This concerned many students since a strike would take away valuable class time and might have denied students of the credits that they attempted to earn. APSCUF members had worked without a contract since 2011, and the strike authorization was used as a means to progress negotiations with PASSHE, which had made little progress since it had started. After much discussion during the following months, both parties had begun making progress on a deal. On February 3, Kenn Marshall, PASSHE’s Media Relations Manager, sent an email to all students and staff that stated that an agreement on the framework for a new contract had been reached between PASSHE and APSCUF.
According to APSCUF’s website, they had created and approved of a framework on February 3, but the agreement could not have been made official until the negotiations committee voted on it. The following day, APSCUF announced on their blog that the negotiations committee had approved the agreement, effectively ending all rumors of a strike.
Created in 1937, APSCUF represents over 6,000 faculty members employed in 14 of Pennsylvania’s publicly owned universities. Of the APSCUF branches, Dr. Van Arsdale has been the president of the ESU branch since her first semester, when she joined in 1990.