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Faculty strike ends at state-owned universities

| Friday, Oct. 21, 2016, 4:24 p.m.
Faculty member Angela Florschuetz (center), her colleagues, and their supporters picket at Cheyney University in Cheyney on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016.
Faculty member Angela Florschuetz (center), her colleagues, and their supporters picket at Cheyney University in Cheyney on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016.

By all accounts, Gov. Tom Wolf played a major role in ending a three-day faculty strike that disrupted classes at 14 state-owned universities this week.

The strike ended shortly after 4 p.m. Friday, a spokesman for the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education said.

It marked the first work stoppage in the system's 33-year history. The strike impacted more than 104,000 students.

A tentative contract agreement was hailed by Cynthia D. Shapira, chair of the state system's Board of Governors.

“We are pleased to get to this point and look forward to the conclusion of the process,” said Shapira of Fox Chapel. “Once again, everyone can focus on what matters most — teaching and learning.”

More than 5,000 faculty members at the schools — including California, Clarion, Edinboro, Indiana and Slippery Rock universities in Western Pennsylvania — had worked without a contract since June 30, 2015.

Their new contract, which has yet to be ratified by the union, would run through June 30, 2018.

Details were not available Friday, but APSCUF President Ken Mash said the union accepted concessions on salary and health care in exchange for state system officials withdrawing more than 200 other proposals.

State System spokesman Kenn Marshall would say only that the agreement would provide faculty with pay increases and would allow the state system to realize important health care cost savings.

Both sides credited Wolf with bringing them together to reach a tentative agreement after increasingly contentious talks broke down Tuesday night.

“We may never have received a deal if it were not for his commitment to public higher education, our universities and our students,” Mash said.

System Chancellor Frank Brogan also praised the governor.

“We are extremely grateful to Gov. Wolf for his outstanding leadership in helping us achieve a successful resolution to these long and difficult negotiations,” Brogan said.

Wolf said he was gratified the sides reached an agreement and pledged to continue to press for greater state investment in public universities.

“Throughout this process, and during my conversations with both sides, the students and families were my focus,” Wolf said. “Coming to a final agreement was challenging, and it took a lot of effort from everyone involved, but I appreciate PASSHE and APSCUF coming together to reach a final agreement on a contract that is fair for professors and university faculty and the state system.”

Debra Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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