Two YSU trustees say they will vote against the contract on moral and religious beliefs.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The 350-member Youngstown State University faculty union will meet at 10 a.m. Thursday in Kilcawley Center and YSU trustees will meet in Tod Hall at 5 p.m. Friday to vote on a new contract.
Officials on both sides expect approval of the tentative agreement reached Tuesday on a three-year contract. The union was set to strike Monday -- the first day of the fall semester.
The trustees voted Tuesday to reject a fact finder's report because of the proposed salary increases and instead approved a tentative deal worked out with the union earlier in the day.
The agreement includes essentially the same language from the fact finder's report on eight of nine recommendations, said Joseph S. Nohra, board president.
Robert G. Stein, the fact finder, sided with the union's pay proposal that calls for 3.5 percent annual raises for three years, as well as a $1,000 lump-sum payment and a bonus up to $1,000 annually for increases in full-time-equivalent enrollment.
That would have increased salaries of professors by an average of 6.2 percent.
About tentative pact
The tentative contract calls for the 3.5 percent annual raises and the $1,000 lump-sum payment, equivalent to a 5.2 percent annual salary increase, but not the enrollment incentive.
YSU officials and John Russo, faculty union president, declined to discuss pay Tuesday. Russo said the faculty voted overwhelmingly Monday and Tuesday in favor of the fact finder's report the trustees rejected.
After it became clear trustees would do so, the union and the university negotiated Sunday and Monday and reached the tentative agreement Tuesday morning, said Russo, adding he and the majority of the union's negotiating team recommend faculty approval.
Even with ratification, YSU will remain at or near the lowest of Ohio's state universities in tuition and average faculty salary, Russo said.
YSU's classified employees union approved a three-year contract last week that included 3-percent annual salary increases and a student enrollment incentive up to $600 annually.
Trustees said they rejected Stein's report because it was too costly to the university, which fell victim to a $2.7 million state budget cut in June. "It would have been fiscally irresponsible," Nohra said.
Russo said the union worked with the trustees on the salary increase because of YSU's financial situation, but the fact finder's report "is telling to the resources" of the university.
Stein said the difference in the proposals was about $420,000, which "does not represent an unreasonable demand."
Voting against it
Nohra and Trustee F.W. Knecht III said they will vote against the agreement, as they did Tuesday when voting on the tentative pact -- and it has nothing to do with salaries. The trustees approved the tentative deal 5-2.
Both said they are morally opposed to a provision that permits the term "domestic partner" in the definition of immediate family for purposes of faculty members' using sick leave and family medical leave.
"It's a moral and religious issue for me; it's a very difficult decision for me," said Nohra, an ordained deacon in the Catholic church. "The church does not recognize domestic partners."
Nohra said he has every right to consider his moral beliefs when voting on a contract concerning the public university.
"I am representing the university and the student body, but I also have to stick to my personal beliefs," he said. "I can't be something I'm not."
Nohra endorses the health-care recommendation in the fact finder's report, which includes a provision to offer "more improvements in such areas as oral contraceptives," which goes against the teachings of the Catholic faith. He could not be reached to comment on that issue.
The faculty wanted YSU to cover medical costs of "members of household," but Stein rejected the suggestion because the phrase is too general. In the report, Stein alludes to wanting to side with the union on that issue if it had only used the "domestic partner" term.
"Ironically, what the university is proposing is more costly," Stein wrote in his decision to side with YSU on the health-care issue.
The faculty contract expires today. YSU officials had said classes would start regardless of a strike.