YSU faculty look to strike if negotiations turn sour on new contract


VINDICATOR EXCLUSIVE

By Amanda Tonoli

atonoli@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Youngstown State University’s faculty is making preparations to strike before the start of the 2017-18 academic year, said a source with knowledge of the union’s position.

Whether the university’s chapter of the Ohio Education Association hits the picket lines will be determined by current negotiations.

The OEA and the YSU Board of Trustees will participate in a fact-finding process beginning Friday in which mediator Susan Grody Ruben of the National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals of Cleveland begins listening to presentations.

Once presentations are finished, Ruben then will have 10 days to issue a report from the fact-finding session.

If one or both of the parties reject the report in the two weeks after its issuance, negotiations can continue and the union is allowed to strike, according to the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association.

However, a source told The Vindicator the OEA’s strike committee met Wednesday to make strike preparations. A strike notice means the union members could walk off their jobs if an agreement isn’t reached.

University spokesman Ron Cole said “unfortunately” at this time the contract negotiations call for a media blackout and he must uphold it.

No details from the current contracts being negotiated have been released.

Salary minimums in the expiring contract are $75,674 for professors, $64,215 for associate professors, $51,238 for assistant professors and $38,689 for instructors, and the university has pointed out that the average faculty salary is $72,213.

In 2011 the faculty voted to strike but then rescinded the action because financial aid and scholarship funds for students would be frozen since a strike notice puts the date of the start of fall classes into question.

Discontent frequently has been cited at YSU since the 2011 strike vote. The Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Great Colleges to Work For” campus climate survey – released in late 2016 – revealed YSU’s fared much worse in comparison to the campus climate of peer institutions across the nation.

Faculty members have voiced concerns about shared governance with the university’s leadership team, accreditations for certain programs, institutional decisions made without faculty opinions being taken into consideration, low wages, a disproportionate practice increasing athletic spending and decreasing academic spending and low morale.

“Many full-time faculty ... are deeply concerned with the direction of YSU in recent years,” said a letter written to YSU’s student newspaper The Jambar in April signed by 91 full-time faculty members.

In 2011, the OEA wasn’t content with many facets of the contract, including a take-home pay cut, a bigger faculty contribution to health care and a reduction in summer school instruction pay.

In addition, the offer called for no raises in the first two years, with a 2 percent increase in the third.

The contract that resulted continued the prior contract’s union contribution of 1.5 percent of salaries to health insurance premiums for a family plan and 0.75 percent for a single plan rather than increasing union members’ contributions.

The current contract – beginning in 2014 – had pay freezes and no bonuses the first year; a 1 percent base-pay increase and $2,000 bonus for professors, $1,500 for associate professors, $1,300 for assistant professors and $1,000 for instructors the second year; and in the third year, the base-pay increase was 2 percent, and the bonuses were $1,000 for professors, $750 for associate professors, $650 for assistant professors and $500 for instructors.

Faculty members who teach during the summer are paid 3.25 percent of their salary per credit hour.

The summer school cap is at $70,000 in the latest agreement, a reduction from $80,000 in the pact that expired last August.

The contract also reduced faculty pay for sabbatical and web-based courses.

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