As Contracts Expire, Pennsylvania Teachers Union Threatens Strike

HARRISBURG, Pa. – With a controversial letter on the table and only one day left before faculty contracts expire, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) is threatening to call a strike.

On June 25, the APSCUF filed an unfair labor practice charge against the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), alleging a letter it sent to union faculty contained intimidating remarks.

PASSHE spokesman Kenn Marshall insists the letter is exactly the same as the one sent out during contract negotiations in 2003. He claims it says only that the law requires PASSHE to cut off salary and benefits if a faculty member goes on strike.

In a press release, APSCUF said the letter was written “for one key reason – to scare faculty members who could be on strike as early as next week.”

If the union calls a strike, summer classes at 14 universities could be cancelled, keeping 25,000 students out of school.

The union and the state system are still negotiating pay and benefits for the next four-year contract. Most recently, the state system has proposed a one-time payment of $1,250 in the first year, with general pay increases of 2 percent in the first two years and 3 percent in the last two years. The system is also offering a wellness program that allows participants to cut their medical insurance costs in half.  The university system is also proposing that the faculty’s 10-percent contribution to their health insurance increase to 30 percent.

The union is asking for 4 percent pay increase in the first year, 5.5 percent in the next two years and 5 percent in the last year.

Talks are continuing until the deadline on June 30. If the strike occurs, it will be the first in the university system’s history.

In related news, the state system reached a tentative four-year contract with 350 coaches. It calls for a 2.25 percent pay increase and a one-time cash payment of $1,250.

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