A Little Review of APSCUF Negotiations
I’ve been teaching at Kutztown University and have been an active member in my faculty union, APSCUF, for over ten years now. As readers of Raging Chicken Press know, APSCUF is in the midst of very contentious, history-making contract negotiations. We have been without a contract for almost 17 months and have been negotiating for nearly 23 months. Yes, we’ve been negotiating for almost two-years. As APSCUF has made clear since the beginning of our negotiations, our team knew that our contract was expiring on the heels of the Great Recession of 2008 and everyone was feeling its impact. APSCUF had a fairly simple approach to negotiations: the union would take a 0% increase during the first year of the contract and we would keep the rest of the contract pretty much the same. The message our negotiators gave to PASSHE Chancellor Cavanaugh was basically, “look, it’s not a great time to spend a lot of time and money on negotiations, so let’s just keep things as they are for this contract. We can have a more thorough negotiations next time around.” Pretty rational. Chancellor Cavanaugh saw things differently. He basically saw the economic crisis as an opportunity to fundamentally transform PASSHE, gut faculty’s role in governance, slash faculty health care, and turn a large segment of the State’s professors into academic piece-workers.
As negotiations have oscillated between further deteriorating and deadlocked, the prospects for the first ever system-wide faculty strike has seemed more plausible. On October 20, 2012 APSCUF’s Legislative Assembly – the policy-making, representative body of the union – met for a special session in State College and unanimously approved calling a strike authorization vote among all 5,000+ APSCUF faculty members. On November 12, 13, and 14, APSCUF members voted on all 14 state university campuses and 95% of the membership voted in favor of granting our negotiations team the authority to call a strike if negotiations reach an impasse. As we head into the last three weeks of the fall 2012 semester, the possibility of a strike remains. The next negotiations session between APSCUF and PASSHE will take place on December 11.
The Lore of Temple Injunction
As negotiations remain tense and APSCUF members begin to think more seriously about the possibility of having to walk picket lines for the first time in the union’s 39-year history, a story I’ve heard before has begun to circulate in some faculty circles: the Temple Injunction. The version of the Temple Injunction story that makes an appearance anytime our negotiations get tense goes something like this:
In 1990, Temple faculty – the Temple Association of University Professionals – went out on strike. The university went to court to force the faculty back to work. A Philadelphia judge issued an injunction forcing the faculty back to work – and the faculty were forced to go back to work.
The telling of this story is usually accompanied by warnings to fellow union members that if we go out on strike, PASSHE can simply get an injunction and force us back to work. It is usually raised by a faculty member who is dead set against any kind of strike or more aggressive approach to contract negotiations. The story is more about FEAR than it is about the applicability of the Temple case and a potential strike by APSCUF. When I first heard this story during our last round of negotiations, details were generally lacking. It struck me then, as it does now, having to do more with the Lore of the Temple injunction, than the concrete details. As our current negotiations grow more tense and the Lore of the Temple Injunction begins to rear its head again, I thought this time around I am going to find out what ACTUALLY happened.
A Raging Chicken Press Mini-Series
Toward the end of finding out what ACTUALLY happened during and after the Temple Faculty strike of 1990, I’ve assembled a few Raging Chicken Press writers and researchers who are willing to bring the story into the light, so we can look at it plainly. As we have begun to research the strike and the injunction, the details of the strike and injunction are not only interesting…they represent an important chapter in Pennsylvania’s labor history – an under-told one, I might add.
The first installment in Raging Chicken Press’s mini-series will appear later today, “Will History Repeat Itself: Temple Injunction of 1990,” by Alyssa Röhricht. We hope this series will help put the Temple Injunction in context and become part of our KNOWN history, not lore that only emerges at moments of tension and fear.
Kevin Mahoney is the Founder and Editor of Raging Chicken Press