By Denise Dick
Youngstown State University’s faculty union leader wrote to President Jim Tressel that she’s disappointed in his lack of effort to stand behind faculty, and asked him to step in and help with protracted negotiations.
The faculty contract expires Aug. 17, the day before Tressel’s installation ceremony. Negotiations have been ongoing for weeks. Negotiations continue with the Association of Classified Employees. That union’s pact expires Aug. 15.
“I am sure you have been made aware of how [bad] negotiations were last evening,” Annette Burden, president of the YSU-Ohio Education Association, wrote in a Wednesday email to Tressel that was obtained by The Vindicator. “In an effort to get a tentative agreement and start work on time, our team gave up a great deal. Sadly, it is never enough for your team or the Board of Trustees.”
Classes begin Aug. 20.
Ron Cole, YSU spokesman, said state law on collective bargaining stipulates that only negotiating team members for the respective parties are permitted to talk about negotiations.
“The president is not going to insert himself, and nobody else is going to insert themselves into that process,” he said.
That will be left to members of the university’s bargaining team, Cole said.
“We all understand there are significant financial challenges facing the university,” he said. “It’s fair to say that we’re hopeful and confident the parties will come together in a mutually respectful and constructive manner and meet as soon as possible and as often as possible to complete the task. We’re going to allow the negotiating teams to do what they do.”
Burden’s email said the attorney for the university and the faculty union’s lead negotiator met Tuesday in a “last-ditch effort to resolve remaining issues,” but after about an hour, the faculty negotiator returned “with nothing more than your team’s request for more givebacks.
“Our team discussed the issues and offered up some alternatives, which were promptly refused. At 9:30 p.m. we offered them one last chance to try to resolve these issues, but they would not budge and we left. I see no hope for a good outcome.”
The last faculty contract was concessionary, and in facing three more years of givebacks, Burden says her members are “feeling demoralized, disillusioned, disrespected and unappreciated.”
Most are facing a 6 percent salary decrease over three years, she said.
“Adding this to the hit they took over the last three years, it is not surprising that I have not seen them this angry since 2005,” the union president wrote.
The faculty and ACE unions both staged brief strikes that year.
“At our last faculty update meeting, many faculty said that they would be updating their vitae and looking to leave,” Burden’s email says. “New faculty have told me that they are sorry they chose to come here. Older faculty are expressing sentiments of disbelief that their years of service to YSU mean so little.”
She says that none of the university’s financial issues is going to improve unless the financial managers — whom she contends are unable to separate their needs from their wants — alter their spending habits.
“I have asked you numerous times to meet with me and our forensic accountant to discuss some of these issues. You have continually ignored my request, with a response that ‘we are close,’” Burden’s email to Tressel says. “I now ask you, close to what??? I stuck my neck out to endorse you as YSU President, but right now, I must say that I am feeling quite disappointed in what I see as a lack of effort to stand behind your faculty. If there was ever a time to step in and get faculty behind you, it is now. Please help me to help them.”