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Why the YSU-OEA blinked

Published: Sun, October 16, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

The faculty union at Youngstown State University went into last-chance contract talks with a roar and came out with a whimper. So much for the blowhards on the hill who had threatened academic Armageddon if university President Dr. Cynthia Anderson and the board of trustees did not give them what a fact-finder had recommended.

Turns out the fact-finder had been breathing the same rarefied air as the faculty.

So, what happened to cause the YSU chapter of the Ohio Education Association to accept the university’s final and best offer, which had been characterized as a bitter pill being forced down the throats of the employees?

Senate Bill 5, that’s what.

With less than a month to go before the voters of Ohio decide whether the new collective bargaining reform law should take effect, opponents of State Issue 2 (SB 5), including the OEA, were not willing to let the YSU faculty become the lightning rod in the waning days of the hard-hitting campaign. Republican Gov. John Kasich and the Republican controlled General Assembly have made it clear through their words and deeds that public employees are living in economic La-La Land and have no concept of the real world.

Shock waves

The prospect of professors and others marching around the campus with pickets proclaiming how mistreated they are because their $70,000 average salary hasn’t kept pace with the cost of Chardonnay and Brie sent shock waves through the labor movement in Ohio and the nation. There are whispers the National Education Association sent word that a strike was out of the question, while the OEA, which mostly represents teachers in kindergarten through 12th grade, sought to distance itself from what was going on at YSU. It is instructive that most faculty around the country are represented by the American Association of University Professors. Throughout the contract talks, the blowhards insisted that peer comparisons with regard to salaries, benefits and work conditions were justified. Yet, their union is mostly made up of school teachers.

But the YSU-OEA’s decision to accept the administration’s final and best offer was also based on pragmatism. Although polls have consistently shown that a majority of the voters oppose State Issue 2 (SB 5) and believe Gov. Kasich and his GOP cohorts overreached, the margin between the yes and no votes is getting smaller.

It is anybody’s guess what will happen on Nov. 8, but the faculty at YSU obviously didn’t want to leave anything to chance.

Without a contract spelling out every aspect of employment, including compensation and workplace rules, the faculty would have been at the mercy of the administration with the passage of State Issue 2.

It’s why public employee unions around the state have been rushing to finalize new contracts that have been anything but lucrative. Wage freezes and benefit concessions have been the order of the day, but public employees have been eager to accept a sure thing rather than the uncertainty that comes with the new collective bargaining law. At the very least, they will have job security for three years. That is important in the midst of an economic downturn.

While there have been calls for reconciliation and Kumbaya gatherings at YSU, the harshness of the rhetoric during the contract talks will not soon be forgotten.


Indeed, the faculty may have lost one of its biggest supporters, President Anderson. She came up through the ranks and was vice president for student affairs when she threw her hat in the presidential ring — with the strong backing of senior faculty members.

But once in the executive suite, Anderson let it be known that she was not going to be a push over for any one interest group on campus — much to the chagrin of the faculty.

They made her salary an issue during the negotiations, even though there was barely a peep out of them when the trustees first made public the terms of her employment.

The faculty threatened a strike and the administration stood firm. Other unions on campus will march in lockstep.

But if Issue 2 is confirmed by the voters and Ohio’s three decades’ long collective bargaining law is changed, the folks on the hill can take solace from the fact that they dodged a bullet.

On the other hand, the community has seen the faculty for what they are: (Fill in your description here).


1paulparks(235 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago


You are right on the money! Issue 2 represents a cultural shift among public employees. Even if it fails, the strength of the public sector unions will forever be diminished.

I think most people want what is fair for everyone - but our elected officials can't help giving away the store unless they're pressed hard by the people.

Well, the voters are pushing back! ... and hard!

On a related issue...keep tuned for the outcome of the "under the radar" school levy campaign in Canfield. This will show the public's tolerance level for new taxes.

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2chuck_carney(499 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

Why hasn't the Vindy interviewed Harry Meshel on his views on President Anderson and the new contract. As I recall he was a primary supporter or her to replace pres. Sweet. Does he still support her with such gusto?

Why haven't the 9/27/2011 meeting minutes been posted by the board of trustees. Where in THE HELL IS HARRY. Or is pre. Anderson still singing ' I'm just wild about Harry, and Harry's wild about me".

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3Boar7734(66 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

Interesting observation that would merit a reason why: "It is instructive that most faculty around the country are represented by the American Association of University Professors.........Yet, their union is mostly made up of school teachers." Anyone care to enlighten?

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4jmagaratz(189 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

Poor old Bertram....he works in the private sector and finds out that his value is worth NOTHING!

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5squarepeg(2 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

I think one of the problems during the negotiations was the delegation of the administration's authority to an outside attorney, who made it clear that fact-finding was irrelevant to the trustees. I wonder what that cost YSU? A quick check on "lawfirmstats.com" shows that the outside attorney's former firm starts first-year lawyers fresh from law school (often just three years after college) at $115,000 per year and his first law firm has an average partner compensation of about $795,000 per year. (Bertram conveniently doesn't consider this point while complaining about faculty salaries for PhDs with half a career of experience. I know, I know, private sector/public sector, 'class warfare', etc., but some of that taxpayer money goes towards making those private sector individuals and corporations far wealthier. That's capitalism, right?)

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6republicanRick(1697 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

The middle class is finally realizing that their standard of living is falling because of all the taxes they pay to support the public unions and their greed.

The middle class is pushing back against the selfish unions whose outrageous demands are crippling communities.

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7Tigerlily(509 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

What a liar and a gossip monger you are, Bertram. It should be illegal for you to publish unconfirmed things as you do here.

Wait, I do think it is illegal. It's called slander.

You're slandering a group of people instead of an individual.

Brie indeed. Check yourself, jerk.

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8republicanRick(1697 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

So Tigerlilly, you think it should be ILLEGAL for Bertram to give an opinion? You don't stand behind ideas and principles, you hide behind lawyers, union reps, and community organizers.
Some day maybe you will learn to standup for yourself.

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9Westsider(269 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

Yes, Senate Bill 5 was a factor - but an even larger factor was House Bill 153 - which became law on September 29. Guess what - the very percentages of health care co-pays that finally made it into the YSU contracts are spelled out in that law. All this hysteria over Senate Bill 5 - and much of it is already law. I wish voters in the Mahoning Valley would actually read and educate themselves instead of listening to 30 second commercials full of rhetoric. Ask Hagan, Gerberry and your state reps about House Bill 153.

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