Faculty members at Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities began a three-day strike authorization vote yesterday amid contract discussions with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE).

 

Faculty have been without a contract since June 2011. Although members could authorize a strike, the group said it would only walk out as a last resort.

 

"We don't want to strike. Our faculty members are certainly not interested in doing this unless it is a last resort," said Lauren Gutshall, a spokesperson for the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF), which represents 6,000 faculty members. "We want a fair contract and will keep negotiating until we come to an impasse."

 

The sticking points are compensation for part-time temporary faculty, contributions to health care for active members and retirees, and distance education stipulations. The state made its latest offer Friday, but the union said it requires major concessions in all three areas.

 

The next scheduled meeting is Dec. 11 in Harrisburg, when the union expects to offer a counter proposal. A following session is scheduled for Dec. 19 in Philadelphia.

Of the 14 state-owned universities, West Chester and Cheyney universities are located in southeastern Pennsylvania. The universities have nearly 120,000 students.

If faculty members went on strike, it would be the first time in the union's 75-year history.