APSCUF president on status of negotiations

September 17th, 2012 at 11:54 am EDT
Sept. 17, 2012

Colleagues:

In June of 2011, as the Chancellor’s negotiations team was still insisting on radical, insulting concessions that touched on nearly every part of the contract, the Governor’s negotiators reached a deal with the Commonwealth’s major public-sector unions, including AFSCME (the second largest union on our campuses). Commenting on the minimal increases and minimal concessions contained in that deal (the “pattern”), Governor Corbett stated, "this is a fiscally-responsible agreement that reflects the economic conditions in Pennsylvania, as well as meeting the parameters of the proposed budget" (you can read about the details of that package on the APSCUF blog).

It took months for the Chancellor to clear the table of the majority of the ridiculous proposals, and when he finally did, it took prodding, publicity and lobbying on APSCUF’s part to embarrass the Chancellor’s team into finally, last month, putting something resembling AFSCME’s compensation package on the table.

However, even as the Chancellor gave his blessing to offer the AFSCME pattern, the Chancellor’s team only did so if APSCUF would agree to increase temporary faculty workload by 25% (with the concomitant impact of increasing the 25% cap and decreasing the size of the regular faculty), to add in costly deductibles and additional payments to active health-care, to provide a lump sum voucher for health-care to all future retirees (including everyone currently working in the system not eligible for retirement now), to eliminate all compensation for teaching distance education, to accept not having annuitant health-care for domestic partners (even though the benefit is provided to all the other major state unions and was verbally agreed to in the last contract), and to accept that none of APSCUF’s proposals would be included in the contract. Simply put, we are being asked to “give back” far more than we would gain and far more than any other major public-sector union in the Commonwealth.

We are aware of the State System’s financial challenges, but these challenges do not exceed those faced by every Commonwealth agency, whose workers received the modest increases and slight concessions in the AFSCME pattern.

Every time my colleagues and I sit at the negotiations table, we are conscious of our predecessors who secured us a fair contract. Our predecessors demanded that previous chancellors afford the faculty the respect they deserve. Our goal is always to be reasonable, but proposals that would slice the salaries of our temporaries, erode their benefits, increase workload for all faculty and, ultimately, decrease the number of professors on the campuses are not acceptable. Proposals that would reduce health care benefits at a time when the nation is seeking to extend benefits are not reasonable. Our predecessors traded salary for health care over multiple contracts because they believed it critical; so do we. We have no intention of letting them -- or you -- down.

As academics we approach our work not just as the mouthpieces for our disciplines, but with the belief that a college education affords people empowerment. While most narrow this down to the economic empowerment that opens the doors to better careers, we understand that a college education should also empower the mind and the will. Higher education is the enemy of quiescence. We can hardly expect our students to understand this without serving as role models in our own lives.

If the Chancellor persists in his demands, during the coming days and weeks we will need to stand together in Harrisburg and on our campuses to convey the message that we are not willing to agree to our exploitation. In the very short term, we hope the Chancellor changes his perspective. Should that not happen, we must all contribute our energies to persuade him that he needs to adjust his expectations.

IIn solidarity,

APSCUF President Steve Hicks

Steve Hicks,
APSCUF President