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YSU faculty negotiator’s memo paints dim picture of negotiations



Published: Thu, May 22, 2014 @ 12:10 a.m.

By Denise Dick

denise_dick@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Youngstown State University’s faculty union walked out of contract negotiations this week, and the negotiating committee believes the administration is trying to drive the process to fact-finding, according to a memo distributed Wednesday to membership by the union’s chief negotiator.

“Our new president is inheriting a mess,” Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez wrote in the memo which was obtained by The Vindicator.

The new president, Jim Tressel, officially starts his job July 1.

Ron Cole, a YSU spokesman, declined comment, citing a news blackout regarding negotiations.

Palmer-Fernandez, a professor and director of the Dr. James Dale Ethics Center at YSU, also declined comment, citing the blackout.

The memo says that in the first negotiation meeting, the university’s chief negotiator declared the sides were at an impasse.

“I assumed then that his use of the term ‘impasse’ was just one of those verbal mistakes one sometimes makes, one of those unintended words that come out of one’s mouth and cannot be placed back in,” Palmer-Fernandez wrote in the memo.

Palmer-Fernandez, writes that in hindsight, however, it should have signaled the intention to drive the process to fact-finding and then to bargain down from the report once it’s issued.

On Tuesday, the union walked out of contract negotiations.

Despite meeting 10 times for a total of more than 40 hours, the two sides reached agreement on only four noncontroversial issues.

When the union proposed items meant to “recognize excellence, boost morale and extend respect to faculty at no financial cost,” the administration rejected the proposals without providing reasons, the memo says.

On May 13, the union, the YSU-Ohio Education Association, presented a comprehensive proposal, walked the administrative side through it, and told them they expected a comprehensive counterproposal.

“On May 14, we again stressed the importance of a comprehensive counterproposal — e.g., that we cannot negotiate in any informed manner if all they give us is a dribble of an article here and other there,” Palmer-Fernandez wrote.

On Tuesday, the administration gave proposals on three articles.

“The faculty team caucused, and on our return to the table we informed them that they were unprepared to negotiate, absent [a] comprehensive package,” he wrote.

Another session is set for today.

“The end game for administration is to drive us to fact-finding,” Palmer-Fernandez wrote. “We know this. The administration’s chief negotiator has made it clear that, by his account, fact-finding is a normal part of negotiations. We believe otherwise.”

Annette Burden, union president, says she’s still hopeful.

“I can’t speak for the negotiating team,” she said. “I’m always hopeful.”

But Burden said Palmer-Fernandez’s memo is a fair and accurate assessment of what’s been happening.

The union has twice requested mediation, but the administration declined.

“The administrative team delays bargaining process at all costs, and the cost in August might be very high,” Palmer-Fernandez wrote. “Unless administration takes a different attitude in negotiations we might find ourselves in a situation that could have been avoided.”

Three years ago, negotiations grew heated with the union initially calling and then canceling a strike.


Comments

1Spiderlegs(144 comments)posted 7 months, 1 week ago

Obviously this memo reports the union side of the story and I am sure there is spin to this, but it is consistent with what we heard elsewhere about YSU leadership being off track and not knowing what it is doing.

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2redeye1(4714 comments)posted 7 months, 1 week ago

If YSU doesn't start on time, then every day that the students have to wait to go to school. Their tuition should be reduced for each and every day they can't attend.

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3billdog1(1804 comments)posted 7 months, 1 week ago

I see another strike on the horizon. The faculty is the backbone of the institution. Without faculty you have no university. They have sat back and watched top administrators take gross raises while they have had their wages froze or marginally increased. Remember that support staff is also in negotiations. A repeat of three years ago is coming. Except I believe this time the faculty will go out and this time it will be ugly. The BOT needs to get to the business of getting YSU back on track or there will be no YSU in the near future. YSU being the only state university in Ohio that does not have full time faculty with a masters could be part of this problem. Allot of money to be saved there. Full time tenured profs with doctorate degrees don't need to be teaching basket weaving 101.

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4billdog1(1804 comments)posted 7 months, 1 week ago

Must been some nice comments for the Vindy to remove them.

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5Seriouslee(125 comments)posted 7 months, 1 week ago

billdog, you do realize that something like 30 percent of courses at YSU are taught by masters only staff, right? Many are full-time, just not tenure track, which allows the university to pay them less. That said, accreditation standards do require a healthy number of PHDs. There are some schools where the majority of faculty are masters holding full-time employees-- community colleges.

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6Seriouslee(125 comments)posted 7 months, 1 week ago

Good question--the number changes daily. Also, its a structural deficit not an operational deficit which both of the un-chosen presidential candidates pointed out.

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7Spiderlegs(144 comments)posted 7 months, 1 week ago

@KnightCap: I think the last number in the Vindy was $7 million. Yes, after all those things. Administrative and athletic expenses were increased after telling the rest of the university that cuts were needed. Priorities have gotten all messed up.

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8ytown37(12 comments)posted 7 months, 1 week ago

Amazing how Seriouslee still takes a jab at Tressel when we're not even talking about him.

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9billdog1(1804 comments)posted 7 months, 1 week ago

Seriouslee, the only masters level full time faulty at YSU are faculty that their discipline does not offer a Ph.d. The rest are considered limited service faculty. They are not full time. Are not offered health care and are not guaranteed a return semester to semester. If the person doing the hiring decides her/his friend or relative, needs a job, so long. I know many that have done and do these jobs. Just because some have been there for eons, doesn't make them full time. As a matter of fact there was an article not to long ago in the Vindy about those employees getting their hours cut do to The Affordable Health Care Act. If they exceed a certain number of hours YSU would have to offer them health care. So, many may be on campus, been there decades, but few are not full time university employees. They do pay into the pension system and retire out of OPERS, but during their time on campus they were never considered full time by the university.

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