Strike continues as classes resume

Staff photo / R. Michael Semple John Jackson, a professor of organic chemistry at Youngstown State University, pickets along Wick Avenue on Tuesday afternoon as negotiations between the faculty union and the university continue.

YOUNGSTOWN — Talks on a new deal between Youngstown State University and its faculty union broke off late Tuesday and a strike will enter its third day today, as classes resume.

The union said late Tuesday that YSU administration “failed to offer a reasonable counterproposal.”

Negotiations are scheduled from 1 to 4 p.m. today.

Students, who had a brief fall break Monday and Tuesday, also return today.

YSU-Ohio Education Association President Steven Reale said the administration’s counterproposal “still falls far too short from giving faculty the protection, equity and respect we deserve, which means negotiations and the strike will go on.”

YSU President Jim Tressel in a prerecorded message told students classes are expected to resume regardless of whether the 337-member faculty union are on strike or not.

Added Brien N. Smith, university provost and vice president for academic affairs: “Unless you are notified otherwise by the department chair, your classes will meet as scheduled. Classes will be covered by part-time faculty, full-time faculty who have chosen not to go on strike, other qualified instructors or via other educational formats. Students should continue their assigned work.”

The YSU-OEA had passed its own new counterproposal across the table Tuesday and agreed to return to the table at 9 last night to hear YSU administration’s response.

Approximately 100 members of YSU-OEA were picketing at locations around the campus.

Following Monday’s negotiations, YSU administration sent out a proposal document to the union that differed from the one presented during the session, the union stated.

On Tuesday, the administration explained that an internal miscommunication error occurred that led to the difference in documents, and so the session began with another discussion of the administration’s Monday’s proposal before negotiations moved forward.

“We had left Monday’s meeting optimistic that we were much closer to finalizing a tentative agreement before classes restarted Wednesday. Unfortunately, this mistake cost both parties time, but the good news is we seem to be back on track and we are hopeful that administration will bring us a deal this evening that all parties can agree on,” Reale said.

Union officials a day earlier reported that significant progress has been made in the negotiations. Mark Vopat, a spokesman with the union, described the discussions having been ongoing for months, but this is the closest to a resolution they have been.

According to the university on Tuesday night, the negotiations are taking place in the midst of a global pandemic and financial crisis that has caused YSU to layoff 31 nonteaching employees and to implement pay cuts of up to 15 percent for nearly 500 other nonteaching employees. Due in part to the pandemic, the university’s enrollment and state funding dropped this fall semester, creating a $3.7 million revenue shortfall.

Faculty were offered pay increases of approximately 4 percent and a health insurance plan with no change in the first two years followed by an increase in premium share from 15 percent in 18 percent in the third year. It is the same plan included in the tentative contract agreement with the university’s classified union.


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