YOUNGSTOWN STATE UNIVERSITY Faculty rejects pact, strikes

Negotiations between YSU and its nonfaculty union didn't go well either.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Youngstown State University's faculty union overwhelmingly rejected a three-year contract with 3 percent annual salary increases.
The contract also called for the union, with about 380 members, to pay an amount equal to 1.5 percent of their annual base salary toward health insurance premiums for family coverage and an amount equal to 0.75 percent for single coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2006.
Also, YSU employees whose spouses have jobs that offer health insurance would have to pay $100 a month to the university to keep their spouses on the YSU plan.
Faculty union officials declined to discuss their contract proposals.
But Thomas Maraffa, YSU's chief negotiator on this contract and special assistant to the president, said the union sought annual salary increases of 3.5 percent, 5 percent and 4.5 percent.
The union wanted employee contributions to be an amount equal to 1 percent for family coverage and 0.5 percent for single coverage, beginning July 1, 2006, Maraffa said.
How voting went
By voice vote, the union members overwhelmingly -- probably 3 or 4 to 1 -- rejected the university's contract proposal, said Bob Hogue, the faculty union's first vice president and chief spokesman.
At the request of some members, the union conducted a paper ballot vote on the strike issue. The result was 207 to 57 to strike. The union then gave the administration of YSU President David C. Sweet a vote of "no confidence." That was done by voice vote.
"It's not a happy day," Hogue said.
The union met for more than 21/2 hours Monday at the Carpenters Local 171 union hall on West Rayen Avenue, a stone's throw from the YSU campus.
The faculty union was to join the YSU Association of Classified Employees, which represents about 400 nonfaculty union members, on the picket line at 12:01 a.m. today. ACE members began a strike a week ago.
After voting to strike, faculty members were met by ACE members outside the union hall with hugs and words of encouragement and congratulations.
This is the first strike at YSU since a one-day walkout by the faculty union in 1990. This is the first time two unions at the university are on strike at the same time.
The fall semester begins next Monday.
ACE President Christine Domhoff and Julia Gergits, the faculty union president, said the strikes were timed to not impact students.
"None of us want to be out Monday," Gergits said.
How things stand
Stan Guzell, chief negotiator for the faculty union, said he thinks the university's contract proposal is a step backward and will make it more difficult for YSU to compete with other universities in recruiting top educators to its faculty.
YSU, faculty union and ACE officials all said they hoped to settle the strike quickly.
There are no new negotiations scheduled with either union.
Besides wages and health insurance contributions, officials of YSU and the faculty union say the other sticking point was the use of retired faculty to teach classes.
Under the union's old contract, which expired Sunday, retirees with at least 10 years of full-time experience at YSU have the right to teach classes at a rate of 3.75 percent of their last annual salary per credit hour.
YSU faculty retirees had earned about $85,000 annually on average when they left the university, Maraffa said. They earn about $9,500 per three-hour course. (A three-hour course is one that meets for three hours per week.) In comparison, part-time teachers earn between $2,400 and $3,000 per three-hour course.
The retired faculty could teach up to 48 hours of classes over five years under the expired deal.
YSU wanted to cut the salary rate to 3.15 percent with retirees teaching up to 30 hours of classes over three years beginning with those who retire during the 2006-07 school year. The union agreed to cut the hours and salary rate somewhat, but details of its proposal on the issue weren't available Monday.
University officials are "deeply disappointed" about both strikes, Sweet said.
About next week
ACE and faculty union officials say it's going to be next to impossible for YSU to begin the fall semester with the strikes.
Sweet wouldn't say if the fall semester could begin Monday with about two-thirds of the university's staff on strike. A contingency plan was being developed, and the focus of YSU officials is to conclude negotiations with both unions, Sweet said.
YSU has been hit hard by health care costs, Sweet said. Health care premiums are up 132 percent in the past six years.
"We're the last and only public university to not have the faculty and staff pay toward health care premiums," Sweet said.
Negotiations early Monday with ACE didn't go well, Domhoff said. The two sides tentatively agreed to annual salaries of 3 percent over the three-year deal instead of 2 percent, 4 percent and 3 percent.
YSU's former proposal had ACE members making employee health care contributions similar to those of the faculty union with payments beginning Aug. 16, 2006. With the salary change to 3 percent annually, YSU sought to start the contributions Jan. 1, 2006.
ACE and YSU officials were to be in front of a State Employment Relations Board today. ACE filed an unfair-labor charge against YSU that contends members of the union were forced by their supervisor to attend a February meeting about a university-paid salary study.

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