AAUP members to decide on strike authorization

Bethany Jones

Members of the American Association of University Professors will vote in the next few weeks to decide whether to authorize a strike against Kent State.

Cheryl Casper, professor of economics and AAUP-KSU chapter president, said the vote would allow the AAUP Council, the governing body of the union, to call a strike without another vote from its members. The AAUP Council is made up of representatives from almost all departments.

“Voting to authorize a strike does not mean that there will be a strike,” she said.

The AAUP is the union representing faculty members. It includes about 500 members out of the 850 full-time faculty members on campus.

The AAUP, which voted overwhelmingly to reject a tentative contract offer July 6, will hold a general membership meeting at 1 p.m. Friday in room 310 of the Student Center to discuss the steps leading to the vote.

At the meeting, AAUP members will decide exactly when to send out ballots.

They hope to have ballots back by the first week in August, Casper said.

Ernest Benjamin, a senior consultant to the national AAUP, will be at the meeting to speak about bargaining and strikes in similar circumstances. He said strikes are rare, but one occurred last year at Eastern Michigan University.

The earliest a strike would take place would be the week before fall classes resume, Casper said.

The union has named Lee Fox Cardamone, associate professor of psychology at Kent State Stark, as its new chief negotiator and will name the rest of the team soon. Casper said the previous team deserved a break after working for 13 months.

Casper said she expected negotiations to resume as soon as the new bargaining committee is in place.

The university says that it is waiting for the union to make the next move.

Associate Provost Gayle Ormiston, chief negotiator of the university bargaining committee, said the AAUP or the university talking about the possibility of a strike is premature, especially because the AAUP has made no other proposals.

“Nowhere have I seen discussions about them returning to the bargaining table to reach a settlement,” he said. “If they have a better plan, we’d like to know what it is.”

The union wants a better health care plan than the administration has proposed, Casper said.

The administration wants faculty members to pay a bigger share of the health care costs. Faculty members agree they should pay some increased costs but feel that the administration is asking them to pay too much. The union especially opposes a “cost passed through” provision in which faculty would pay half of any premium increase beyond 10 percent.

The July 6 tentative agreement included a 2 percent salary increase the first year and a 3 percent increase the second and third year. Because it was rejected, the university’s offer stands at 2 percent the first year, 3 percent the second year and 2 percent the third year, Ormiston said.

Ormiston said that when the university and faculty reached the proposed contract agreement, the university had identified the financial limitations around which it could work. The university gave their “last, best and final offer” given those parameters, he said.

Ron Kirksey, executive director of University Communications, said the university is open to a “real, genuine proposal” from the union.

Both sides have said they do not want to hurt students.

“Who benefits from this discussion of a strike authorization?” Ormiston said. “Do the students benefit, do the parents benefit, does the public benefit?”

But Casper said the union “is running out of options.”

Casper said that the salary increase requested by faculty is modest and will not pass on a substantial cost to students.

“We don’t want to add to that burden (rising tuition). If we don’t keep pace, we will lose good faculty members,” Casper said.

Contact academic affairs reporter Bethany Jones at [email protected].