YSU provost calls on faculty union to withdraw strike notice

Negotiations on a new three-year contract with YSU’s faculty union came to an abrupt halt this afternoon when union negotiators failed to make any new economic proposals and ended the talks.

No additional negotiating sessions are scheduled, and the faculty have filed a notice to strike on Monday, Oct. 12.

YSU Provost Brien Smith calls on the union to withdraw its strike notice and continue to negotiate. If not, he asks faculty members not to participate in a strike.

“For the sake of our students and the community, who have persevered under difficult and unprecedented circumstances this year, we need to come to a resolution that is within the university’s financial means and without a work stoppage,” he said.

“We appeal to our faculty colleagues to consider the facts surrounding the university’s finances and the significant impact that a strike would have on our students. We have all worked so hard to successfully maneuver through this global pandemic in service of our students. Let’s not stumble now.”

The facts:

  • In response to revenue losses caused in large part by the Covid-19 pandemic, the university has laid off 31 non-faculty employees and implemented pay cuts of up to 15 percent for 481 non-faculty employees.
  • Faculty, on the other hand, have not taken any reductions and are not being asked to do so. In fact, the administration’s latest offer includes modest salary increases for faculty. (Note that the median, faculty salary at YSU is $74,825 for a nine-month contract.)
  • YSU’s 2021 fiscal year budget was developed in the wake of Covid-19 and the national financial crisis. Decreases in revenue turned out not to be as large as projected; however, the university’s overall revenues are still down by $3.7 million this fiscal year, contrary to the union’s claims that the university has a multi-million dollar “surplus”.
  • Part of that lost revenue is due to a 4.4 percent decline in enrollment, including a drop of 8 percent in freshmen. In addition, the number of high school graduates for the five-county region is projected to drop significantly in the next decade.
  • And on top of that, a great deal of uncertainty remains. For instance, if another campus shutdown is necessary due to Covid-19 (as was the case in the Spring), university revenue could drop by another $14 million this year alone. 

The university’s offer to the union is:

  • Salary: no increase in the first year, 1 percent in the second year, 2 percent in the third year.
  • Health insurance: 15 percent employee premium contributions, increasing to 16 percent in the second year and 18 percent in the third, significantly lower than contributions by employees at other universities and private sector employers.
  • Additional health insurance details: $20 office visit co-pays, and $5 generic prescription drugs.

“We value our faculty; they are central to our excellence as a higher education institution,” Smith said. “But higher education is in a critical time of transition and the world is in a crucial time of unprecedented challenges. The financial realities at YSU, and at universities across the state and nation, are difficult and will require the sacrifice of all.”

Meanwhile, YSU’s Fall Break is Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 12 and 13. No classes are scheduled. So, if faculty go on strike, classes will not be disrupted for those two days. If the strike spills into Wednesday, the university is making plans to continue to offer classes. More details on those plans will be released.