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Posts Tagged ‘legislative assembly’

Last night on the 10pm newscast, WFMZ ran APSCUF’s strike authorization vote as the lead story. It was a pretty good story and from what I am told, WFMZ actually beat the Associated Press to the story. Pretty cool.

STATE COLLEGE, PA

Delegates from the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties unanimously approved a strike authorization vote Saturday, according to its members.

Delegates from each campus, including Kutztown University and East Stroudsburg University met in State College Saturday for the decision.  The vote will now head to the full membership of the APSCUF.

The vote comes amid stalled contract negotiations….

Check out the full story here

While the story was pretty objective, I posted a couple of my concerns about the story as it ran on the APSCUF-KU 411 facebook page. Here ya go:

Pretty good coverage from WFMZ. While the story as a whole was pretty objective, there are a couple issues of concern:

1) On the 10pm live newscast (not in the text on the linked page) mentions the issue of a 35% cut in the pay for temporary faculty as an “other issue.” That does not reflect the position of our negotiating team or our discussions at yesterday’s Legislative Assembly. The attack on temporary faculty is a CENTRAL issue of contention. PASSHE’s proposal would und

ercut the quality of education and the ability of PASSHE universities to attract high quality faculty. (see Amy Lynch-Biniek’s article on this issue: http://goo.gl/ryycn ).

2) Again, on the 10pm live newscast, but also on the linked page, health care and retiree benefits are simply listed as “issues.” This can leave the impression by viewers/readers that we are asking for MORE benefits – a concern that is born out in the comments on WFMZ web page. APSCUF is no asking for more and the details of what PASSHE has been doing with our health care over the past decade or so is down right despicable, if not criminal. Over $100 million dollars “stolen,” in the words of our lead negotiator, from our health care plans. And, PASSHE wants to TAKE AWAY retiree benefits. That’s the issue. I really hope some crack reporters will get into these issues seriously at some point. It’s like a murder-mystery once you see the details.

All-in-all, though, thanks to WFMZ for the solid coverage. They were one of the first news outlets on the story. I heard tell that they actually be the AP on this one!

We do have our work cut out for us.

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I will be tweeting from the Special Assembly. Follow me at @kuxchange or check out the twitter feed on the right. Look for hashtags #apscuf and #apscufLA.

 

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This is turning out to be the most serious Legislative Assembly I have ever attended. You can follow my live tweets at @kuxchange. You can also check out the live twitter feed on the right-hand side of the KUXchange blog. 

One message for faculty: Enough is enough.

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Today’s session began at 9 am.  I’ve been tweeting live from the floor on Twitter: @kuxchange.

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I have to say that I am proud of my union today.

Today is one of those few moments when you can see years of work bear fruit.  The truth of the matter is that most of the work of organizational change does not make headlines.  Making changes in bylaws, for example, is not the stuff that makes for bedtime reading…unless, of course, you are having trouble sleeping.  And, frankly, there are times when such incremental work seems like you are spinning your wheels.  Likewise, there are times when trying to get an organization to take a stand on a critical issue can get mired down in institutional inertia or political concerns that are far removed from doing what it right.

Today was different.

First, Legislative Assembly approved hiring a professional negotiator for our current contract negotiations.  There had been talk of hiring a professional negotiator as long as I have been involved with APSCUF and, by most accounts, those calls long preceded my involvement.  As part of a long process of restructuring our negotiations process following at least two rounds of “difficult” negotiations, APSCUF changed it’s bylaws to streamline our negotiations team and to hire a professional negotiator.  And I have to say, we did it right.  Legislative Assembly approved hiring Stuart Davidson of the law firm, Willig, Williams, and Davidson out of Philadelphia.  Here’s a bit of his bio:

Stuart W. Davidson has represented labor unions and employee benefit plans since graduating from Harvard Law school in 1982. Stuart began his legal career by successfully defending the pension rights of state employees in a case that was ultimately decided by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

During Stuart’s legal career, he has been involved in representing a wide range of union workers, including musicians, longshoremen, machinists, steelworkers, firefighters, teamsters, police officers, food and commercial workers and NFL players. His work for both public and private-sector unions includes leading contract negotiations, presenting interest and grievance arbitrations, representing employee benefit funds and advising clients on internal union matters. Stuart has also played key roles in the development of new and progressive benefit structures with the pension and health and welfare plans he represents.

I remember the long debates and conversations at Legislative Assembly and in our local representative council and general membership meetings about the need to hire a professional negotiator to face off against PASSHE’s hired guns.  Well, after years of work, we’ve done it.

Second, while some may find this a bit wonky, we enacted the bylaws changes we made last year by approving our Negotiations Committee’s recommendations for the Negotiations Team. We spent the bulk of the morning session of Legislative Assembly discussing the slate of candidates put forward by the Chapter Presidents/Negotiations Committee for the Negotiations Team.  The discussion was critical, thoughtful, and pretty consistently focused on ensuring an accountable process.  This is the first time that we are enacting this new negotiations structure; therefore, how we enacted this structure would have long-term implications for how our negotiations process works.  I am proud of my brothers and sisters for not punting the responsibility to a subcommittee or to simply rubber-stamp the decisions of our union leadership.  In short, we acted like a committed, democratic union.

Finally, and perhaps most movingly, Legislative Assembly unanimously supported a motion from APSCUF Executive Committee to do whatever it takes to ensure that the domestic partner benefits we secured in our last contract–thanks to the long, hard-fought battle by APSCUF members–be equitable with spouse benefits.  A brief history: we won domestic partner benefits in our last contract, but the PASSHE administration chose to not honor those benefits for domestic partners and dependents once the faculty member retired.  That flies in the face of the contract agreement.

The APSCUF-KU delegation submitted a resolution to be taken up as new business on Saturday.  It concludes:

Therefore, be it resolved: that the staff and leadership of state APSCUF shall find a means to provide health benefits to domestic partners and dependents of PASSHE faculty annuitants who have retired or will retire under the APSCUF/State System 2007-2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement.

We were prepared to meet with members from other delegations to build support for the resolution and argue for its passage.  We never had to do it.  Instead, a motion came to the floor from Executive Committee that made our resolution obsolete.  APSCUF Executive Committee is willing to ensure these benefits even if it means that APSCUF pays the difference in cost to cover domestic partners and dependents of PASSHE faculty annuitants.  Legislative Assembly approved unanimously to support the Executive Committee’s motion.  It was another one of those moments.  Historic.

In a time when we’re seeing prohibitions against same-sex marriage and policies that overtly discriminate against same-sex couples fall one by one, it felt pretty amazing to be on the floor of assembly casting this vote today.

Maybe you’ll find this post a bit too gushing. Fair enough.  But, that’s what I’m feeling right about now.

Today, I am proud of my union and proud of my brothers and sisters.

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I will be twittering live from the floor of APSCUF Legislative Assembly through the KU XChange on Twitter @kuxchange.  I’ll post more substantively to the blog when there is a break in the action.

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As you may know, this is election time for APSCUF statewide.  This morning APSCUF delegates from all 14 PASSHE universities cast ballots to determine who will lead us as we enter into a difficult negotiations year, face local and statewide retrenchment, and continue to mobilize our members on a range of key issues.  In short, it was a serious day in Canonsburg, PA where assembly was held.

negotiationsPerhaps the most watched and discussed contest in this election was for president and vice president.  Both sets of candidates ran as slates.  Current APSCUF president Steve Hicks ran again for president with current State Meet and Discuss chair Ken Mash.  Rob Mutchnick, President of APSCUF at IUP and a member of State APSCUF Executive Committee ran with Deb Cornelius, President of Shippensburg’s APSCUF chapter.

The voting took placed this morning and I got word at about 10:30 this morning that Hicks and Mash won the elections by a 61/47 margin.  I can only wish Steve and Ken all the luck in the world as we move into what promises to be a difficult negotiating year.  I hope they know they can count on us at Kutztown to do our part.  And I urge all APSCUF members around the state to do the same.  This round of negotiations promises to test our mettle as a union.  Let’s begin preparations now.

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