AAUP-WSU strike continues

By Whitney Vickers - [email protected]

FAIRBORN — The strike by the American Association of University Professors – Wright State University Chapter is continuing into its third week, making it the longest strike of higher education in Ohio.

The AAUP-WSU and Wright State University administration have been unable to agree upon a new contract terms for faculty members for approximately two years. AAUP-WSU members rejected the Wright State University Board of Trustees “last, best offer” they voted to unilaterally adopt Jan. 4. The AAUP-WSU filed an intent to strike notice with the Ohio labor board Jan. 7. AAUP-WSU members started the strike Jan. 22 and have been picketing outside the Dayton campus.

The union and administration started negotiating once again Jan. 27-28 in which Wright State President Cheryl Shrader said she was pleased with the progress the two parties made. The board of trustees met in executive session Jan. 29 and offered a new contract proposal to the AAUP-WSU on Feb. 1. Trustees voted to adopt the contract Feb. 3 after asking the AAUP-WSU to host a vote among its membership.

“We have made substantial concessions – with retrenchment, workload, furlough days, merit pay, non-tenure eligible faculty appointments, retirement incentives, summer teaching rotation, and pay raises. In fact, specific language on summer teaching rotations and pay raises comes directly from union demands during last week’s negotiations,” Wright State University Board of Trustee President C.D. Moore II said. “We put these concessions in writing and ratified them with a formal vote. We ask the AAUP’s Executive Committee to put this contract to a transparent vote of their full membership.”

However, the AAUP-WSU said according to its chapter constitution that members only vote on “tentative agreements” reached by the two parties. The contract would have ended the strike and been in place until June 2023.

The proposed contract included the following terms:

Adjusts the former contract language sought by the union for retrenchment or layoffs; adjusts the former contract language sought by the union for faculty workload; workload stays in the CBA; limits bargaining unit furlough days to only one per semester; brings all employees under the university’s existing health care plan; provides two years of pay raises sought by the union for all bargaining unit faculty members during the final two years of the proposed contract; maintains the union’s desired former contract language for summer teaching rotations, while including new language detailing a reduction in summer teaching compensation to help the university in its cost savings needs; maintains the union’s desired former contract language for merit pay and adds a promise of a merit pay pool in the last year of the proposed contract; agrees to meet the union’s concerns on continuing appointments for non-tenure eligible faculty members by only increasing the length of time until promotion to seven years with no requirements for an advanced title( this extra year only applies to faculty hired after the agreement is in place.); increases minimum salaries commensurate with the pay increase pool provided in the last two years of the contract, incorporates a new retirement incentive plan to be formally included as a part of the contract.

The university also offered to reinstate benefits with no gap in coverage or additional fees for striking faculty but would not restore lost pay for the time period that individuals were on strike.

“I look forward to our faculty returning to their classrooms. I know the trustees, administration and faculty all share a strong commitment to our students. Together we will continue to build upon Wright State’s mission as a provider of high-quality and affordable higher education,” Shrader said before the AAUP-WSU announced that the strike would continue. “The trustees and union leadership worked hard to find common ground. I believe [the] proposed contract addresses the union’s major areas of concern, while positioning the university for continued financial recovery and sustainability. I hope it is quickly approved by our faculty union members, and we can all move forward in the same direction.”

According to Wright State, the concessions would have been possible if the AAUP-WSU Executive Committee allows its members join the university’s existing health care plan which is the current plan for everyone at the university, including non-union faculty and all other union employees. Wright State said the trustees are unanimous of their support of the university moving forward with the existing university health plan.

“Despite repeated requests from the union, the board continues to refuse to engage in meaningful bargaining. Instead, they have put down another ultimatum, falsely claiming that it represents concessions on their part,” AAUP-WSU President Marty Kich said in the press release. “In fact, all the concessions have been by faculty. The latest proposal would take money from the faculty’s earnings in five summers and return only some of it to faculty in 2022 and 2023. The most objectionable aspect of their proposal, however, was a health plan that would allow the board to change the plan — without negotiating — every 60 days. The board’s call to allow a vote by union membership is an attempt to present the union as undemocratic.”

According to Wright State, the college estimated it would save millions of dollars annually by moving forward with all employees under the existing health care plan, instead of maintaining two separate plans in which Wright State said one of the plans would be financially unsustainable.

“[The proposal] ignores the need of the students to have their fulltime faculty teach in the summer,” AAUP-WSU Contract Administration Officer Noeleen McIlvenna said. “Plus, we cannot submit to giving the board a blank check in the form of this health plan. This university would never be able to attract great faculty in the future. WSU has lost over 90 full-time faculty since 2016. All that lost expertise hurts students, WSU’s research productivity and the reputation of our university — not to mention the value of WSU degrees already earned by our alumni. We need to fight for the future of education at this great public institution. The strike continues.”

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine visited the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce Feb. 4 and weighed in on the strike.

“I’m very concerned as I think all of us should be. We are monitoring closely those negotiations. This is starting to reach a crisis situation,” said DeWine, adding that he doesn’t want to have to “put a thumb down on one side or another.”

By Whitney Vickers

[email protected]

Contact Whitney Vickers at 937-502-4532.

Contact Whitney Vickers at 937-502-4532.