First Faculty Strike at LHU, State System Schools Underway

LOCK HAVEN — Pickets walked the line at Lock Haven University as of 7 a.m. today after five days of negotiations failed to produce a contract settlement between the State System of Higher Education and APSCUF, the system’s faculty union.

Faculty members with placards were active at both the LHU main campus and the “East Campus,” the old Lock Haven High School site. They were heard chanting, “Two, four, six eight, why won’t you negotiate?” and “Who’s got the power? We’ve got the power.”

LHU students were seen heading to classes, one telling therecord-online they were instructed to report to their Wednesday morning classes to have their attendance confirmed by an administrator.

The scene on the LHU campus was reported the same at the other 13 state system schools.

The strike began after talks broke down, other media sources reporting both sides rejecting what was described as the other’s best offer.

“Our Lock Haven faculty are disappointed that PASSHE negotiators left the negotiating table, but we remain united and prepared to stay on the picket line to bring the Chancellor back to the table,” said LHU APSCUF spokesperson Dr. Mark Cloud.

A union statement blamed the state system for walking away from negotiations Tuesday evening after submitting a “final proposal.” Earlier on Tuesday Governor Wolf had encouraged the teams to continue negotiations until a contract is reached.

“I have monitored negotiations between PASSHE and APSCUF closely and I have had many conversations with both sides. Throughout all of this I have repeatedly urged both sides to continue talking until an agreement is reached.”

APSCUF president Dr. Ken Mash and other members of the negotiating team waited through the night for the state system to return to the bargaining table.

“At 11:35 p.m., we made a last attempt to negotiate through back channels,” Mash said. “We waited until 5 a.m. We are headed to the picket lines, but even on the picket lines, our phones will be on, should the State System decide it doesn’t want to abandon its students. They’ll know where to find me at 5:30 a.m. I’ll be outside the chancellor’s office at the Dixon Center on the picket line.”

The state system posted these releases on its website:
“The State System and the faculty union concluded five days of negotiations Tuesday without reaching agreement on a new contract. While the two sides made significant progress in the talks that began Oct. 14, including reaching tentative agreements on more than a dozen issues, including distance education, recruitment and retention of high-quality faculty, and professional responsibilities of faculty outside the classroom, they were not able to reach overall agreement. The union rejected the System’s offer to provide raises to all permanent and temporary faculty and the identical healthcare package that other System employees have. The union previously indicated it would strike on Oct. 19 if an agreement not reached by then. The System remains committed to reaching an agreement that is fair to everyone, especially students.”

“Attention Students: Regardless of the faculty union strike, students are required to report to scheduled classes unless the university indicates otherwise.

Faculty have the legal right to decline to participate in a strike and to remain in the classroom and continue their classes for their students.”
Local APSCUF officials said some 10-15 faculty members will walk each picket line in two-hour shifts, today’s picketing to run until 7 p.m.

During a strike faculty will not be paid, and they will not perform any teaching, advising, or university related duties. According to the APSCUF release, the state system paid Highmark Blue Shield, the health insurance provider, to remove state system faculty who join the picket line from their health insurance in the event of a strike.

The faculty contract expired June 30, 2015, and negotiations have been ongoing since late 2014.

APSCUF represents about 5,500 faculty and coaches at the State System universities: In addition to Lock Haven they are Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock, and West Chester.
Coaches in the state system did not go on strike and a football player at LHU told therecord-online the team had an early Wednesday workout.