Faculty union declares impasse in negotiations

Faculty+Senate+chair+Deb+Smith+speaks+during+the+first+meeting+of+the+semester+on+Monday%2C+Feb.+12%2C+2018.

Faculty Senate chair Deb Smith speaks during the first meeting of the semester on Monday, Feb. 12, 2018.

Rachel Hale

The faculty union declared an impasse with the Kent State administration regarding contract negotiations.

The Kent chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the university will call in the help of a federal mediator to help break the impasse.

If the mediator is unsuccessful, the parties will bring in a fact-finder.

An update on the union’s website said it came to a decision after meeting with administration on Oct. 24. The union said, “the administration did not move at all” on benefits and salaries regarding the new three-year contract for tenure-track professors.

Bill Sledzik, the communication chairman for the union, said it is not unusual for a labor union to declare an impasse over the negotiations of salary and benefits.

The university posted an update on their website stating the union’s decision to declare an impasse is an “unusual step to take at this point in the bargaining process, particularly given the university’s good faith in meeting regularly, exchanging proposals and the university’s submission of counter proposals on various topics.”

AAUP at Kent State represents 1,265 full-time faculty members. They are negotiating the contract that expired last school year.

The university proposed a tiered salary, which the union opposes.

The administration said in their update it “again enhanced its tiered salary proposal.” Faculty making below $80,000 would receive 3 percent raises in the first two years of the new contract and a 1 percent increase in the third year. Faculty making between $80,000 and $100,000 would receive 2 percent raises in the first two years and 1 percent increase in the third year. Faculty making over $100,000 would receive a 1 percent increase in the first two years and 2 percent increase in the third year.

The university defended the importance of a tiered salary for faculty, saying on its website, “AAUP-KSU continues to reject any consideration of the university’s tiered salary proposal.”

The AAUP said the tiered salary proposal will see faculty wage decrease over time with the contract.

AAUP said it is “optimistic that a neutral third party fact-finder will take interest in the data and evidence that AAUP-KSU has to present.”

Sledzik said they will finish fact-finding before the end of the semester.

During the last negotiation in 2016,

the union declared an impasse. The union voted to authorize a strike, negotiations were ultimately settled within hours, avoiding a potential strike.

The way negotiations work after an impasse is declared, and well before the fact-finding hearing, the AAUP will take a strike authorization vote of membership. The vote simply allows AAUP leadership to call a strike if necessary but does not mean the leadership will call for a strike.

Sledzik said it “still remains to be seen” if there could be a strike this year.

“If (a strike) happens there won’t be any professors in the classroom, so that will have an effect on students, and it’s something both sides want to avoid,” Sledzik said.

Rachel Hale is the administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected]