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DBJ: WSU faculty union won’t call off strike until deal is reached, university says it’s ‘not possible’

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Excerpt from the Dayton Business Journal

Posted at Jan 18, 2019, 2:10pm EST

A strike among Wright State's faculty union appears imminent after administrators reiterated their position this week that they will not re-negotiate a contract imposed by the university's board of trustees earlier this month.

The board implemented employment terms for the 560 faculty members represented by the American Association of University Professors-Wright State University on Jan. 4, which the union overwhelmingly rejected. University president Cheryl Schrader says these terms do not represent an offer, and are not meant as a bargaining position.

"These are actual employment terms put in place until the AAUP-WSU’s next contract is negotiated and approved," Schrader stated.

These terms include unpaid furlough, or "cost-savings" days for employees; no wage increases; no increases or decreases in minimum salaries; "drastic and immediate changes" in the way health care benefits are handled; and a shorter time frame for Wright State administrators to lay off employees. Each issue is related in some way to the university's financial troubles, which has resulted in layoffs and a $91 million budget shortfall between 2013 and 2017.

The union's position is the terms are "unfavorable, unfair, and unreasonable."

"We believe that accepting their contract would lead to a reduction in the quality of education at the university and adversely impact our working conditions," the union stated this week in an open letter to community members.

For these reasons, AAUP-WSU voted to authorize a strike, which is set to begin on Tuesday. Faculty members covered under the employment terms instituted by Wright State may still report to work if they choose to, though Schrader acknowledged it is their decision.

Wright State will remain open and students are advised to report to class. Students who choose to drop, withdraw or unofficially withdraw due to never attending classes may be at risk of losing their financial aid through the Return of Title IV process.

“The actions of one-sixth of our employees will not alter our mission as an institution of higher learning," Schrader stated. "And, their actions most certainly do not change our contractual and ethical obligations to our students. Wright State will be open for education on January 22, and students should go to class."

In a letter to Rudy Fichtenbaum, chief negotiator for AAUP-WSU, WSU General Counsel Larry Chan stated it was necessary to move the university forward beyond the "status quo" of a contract that expired in June 2017. He noted the university's financial crisis, and said that returning to the same contract negotiations that have failed to produce an agreement for two years is either "naive or simply a strategic tactic by the AAUP-WSU."

"At its core, Mr. Chan’s message tells the faculty that the administration/board will not negotiate regarding the contract they unilaterally imposed on us on January 4," Fichtenbaum stated. "It is thus more clear than ever that our strike is the only recourse for us to protect the academic integrity of Wright State and thus defend our students, alumni, and community.”