By Denise Dick
Two Youngstown State University professors are encouraging fellow faculty to withhold their participation in departmental meetings and abstain from additional work, should the administration impose a contract.
The YSU-Ohio Education Association’s Crisis Committee distributed to members a four-page report, “Use Your Own Sense of Justice and Fairness.” The committee consists of John B. Russo, coordinator of the labor studies program and co-director of the Center for Working-Class Studies, and Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez, director of the ethics center.
Russo and Palmer-Fernandez via email each referred questions to Sherry Linkon, faculty union spokeswoman.
Linkon in an email said the crisis committee “operates as part of the leadership of the union, though they function independently.”
She said that union leadership does not review the crisis committee reports before they are sent out, describing it as discussing “ways that faculty could reasonably express their perspective, within the contract, on the administration’s actions.”
Ron Cole, YSU spokesman, said in an email that it’s unfortunate the union leadership would send out such a letter.
“Those kinds of suggestions will only hurt the university, and particularly our students,” he said. “I think the vast, vast majority of our faculty disagree with that approach. Otherwise, I think the letter speaks for itself.”
The crisis committee’s letter says the union “has been informed by trusted and reliable sources and in a recent negotiation that the Anderson-Schulick nexus is considering to unilaterally implement their last best offer in the next several weeks” — referring to YSU President Cynthia E. Anderson and Trustee Scott Schulick. The report says faculty members have been asking what to do if that happens and lists seven items to consider.
“The administration relies upon time and work that are beyond our contractual duties and for which we are not compensated,” it says under the heading of “Unpaid, Additional Work.”
“They extract from us a type of free labor.”
The faculty union and administration have been involved in a contract dispute since last month when YSU trustees rejected a fact-finder’s report that spelled out recommended terms and conditions for a new three-year contract. The union accepted the report, which included concessions.
After additional talks failed to produce resolution, the administration issued what it termed its last best offer. That called for no pay increases the first two years with a 2 percent raise the third and final year.
It also involves a reduction in faculty pay for summer school and increased health-care contributions.
The union rejected the offer and initially said members would strike. A few hours later, though, the union called off the strike, saying it wanted to return to the table.
Both sides have met since then although no agreement has been reached.
Faculty salary minimums are $75,674 for professors, $64,215 for associate professors, $51,238 for assistant professors and $38,689 for instructors. The average faculty salary is $72,213.
The report from Russo and Palmer-Fernandez says that trustees don’t know or care about the “important work and services we do almost daily on behalf of the university that go unrecognized in the collective- bargaining agreement, and without which the university cannot function properly.
“It is that kind of free labor that is totally under faculty control,” it says. “In order to help them recognize our full value to the university, we should be selective about which, if any, of those activities we continue to perform.”
It further states that while the contract says faculty shall attend university, college and department faculty meetings, it doesn’t say that faculty must participate in discussions, “and it certainly does not say that we have to smile and applaud either the President at her State of the University Address or any dean at college meetings.”
That’s particularly important for faculty in the colleges of those administrators who were members of the team “that belittled and abused the faculty, and persistently misdirected facts during negotiations,” the report says.
The professors’ report also refers to an email sent to some faculty requesting participation in the planning for Non-Violence Week.
“While this is a very good program, the Anderson-Schulick nexus must realize that they have to compensate our professional labor and time,” it says. “In response to such invitations, a faculty member might respond thus: ‘Because of the unconscionable actions by the Anderson administration and her negotiating team and out of my own sense of fairness and justice, I will not take on any activities that are not recognized in the collective-bargaining agreement and compensated appropriately.’”
It also cautions that faculty will face blame, referring to the administration’s contention last month that the enrollment decrease was the result of labor disputes.
“They seem to have forgotten that they had already projected a decrease in enrollment as a result of the establishment (and support) for the new Eastgate (sic) Community College and the regional depopulation,” Russo’s and Palmer-Fernandez’s report says of Eastern Gateway Community College. “Likewise, they seem to have forgotten that they had a perfect opportunity to settle with us when we voted to accept the fact-finder’s report. They chose not to.”
The university has contended that concessions are necessary to address a projected $1.7 million deficit this year due in part to state cuts.
A major point of contention is the health-care contribution. Under the just-expired contract, faculty members pay 1.5 percent of a monthly salary for the family health-care plan. Under the proposal, that faculty member would contribute 10 percent of the cost of the health-care premium in year one, and 12 percent and 15 percent in years two and three.
Faculty members have expressed concerns about not knowing the amount of the premium in the last two years while the university contends it can’t project the second- and third-year amounts.