LHU faculty take to picket lines

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LOCK HAVEN – After waiting all night to reach a contract with the state system without success, Lock Haven University faculty members joined colleagues across the 14 state owned universities at the picket lines starting at 7 a.m. today.

“Our Lock Haven faculty are disappointed that Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (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,” Dr. Mark Cloud spokesman for the LHU chapter of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, said in a statement released this morning.

In a widely passed strike authorization vote, state universities faculty said they would strike “if a fair contract is not negotiated by 5 a.m. today.”

The faculty union had been in extended negotiations with the state system since Friday, Oct. 14, in a final push to reach a tentative contract. The negotiations details were controlled by a media embargo.

“However, the state system unilaterally walked away from the negotiations Tuesday evening after submitting a ‘final proposal,'” APSCUF said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf 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,” the governor said.

Gov. Wolf affirmed, “We must ensure our professors are treated fairly while recognizing PASSHE’s difficult financial situation due to years of under-funding. There is enough common ground for the two sides to reach a final compromise. Both PASSHE and APSCUF should continue negotiations until a final agreement is reached.”

APSCUF president Dr. Kenneth 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.”

At Lock Haven University, faculty are picketing at three main locations on the main campus, one location at East Campus, and at the Clearfield campus.

Main campus picket locations include a line (the “Bentley” line) on North Fairview Street passing in front of Glenn Road from Sloan building to the LHU Commons area facing the Ulmer management and administration building.

A second line (the “Campus” line) on main campus will run on North Fairview St. and Susquehanna Avenue passing in front of Campus Drive from Himes to LHU Commons.

A third picket line (the “Railroad” line) would run on Water Street passing in front of parking lot to the PUB down to Railroad Street.

A picket line at East Campus will run between West Church and Fourth Street passing the entrance to the East Campus Science Center.

Faculty members at the Clearfield campus will also be picketing today and through the duration of the strike.

LHU APSCUF President Dr. Stanley Berard said, “The State System’s ‘last best offer’ insists on lower salaries for adjunct faculty, treats new faculty less favorably in retirement health benefits, and disregards the concessions we offered on active health benefits. Their proposals on retrenchment of faculty and professional development attack our ability to preserve and improve academic programs.”

Approximately 10-15 faculty members will walk each picket line starting at 7 a.m. in two-hour shifts. Today’s picketing runs 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

During a strike faculty will not be paid, and they will not perform any teaching, advising, or university related duties. The Chancellor 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.

Until the State System negotiates a contract APSCUF believes is fair to students and to faculty, faculty members will be on strike, starting 5 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19. The strike will end when negotiators reach a contract.

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: Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock, and West Chester Universities of Pennsylvania.