Strike enters 2nd day at 14 Pennsylvania state universities

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Professors at 14 Pennsylvania state universities hit the picket lines Thursday as their strike entered its second day.

Members of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties went on strike at Wednesday after contract negotiations with the state stalled. The union represents more than 5,000 faculty and coaches.

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education said it made concessions and gave the union its best offer Tuesday night.

At West Chester University, outside Philadelphia, a handful of picketers held signs reading “The faculty will not sacrifice quality” and others multitasked by walking their dogs on the line.

Spokesman Kenn Marshall said the state system was disappointed the union decided to strike because officials felt they had made significant progress overnight toward a settlement.

The system said prior to the walkout that its latest proposal would provide raises to all permanent and temporary faculty members and a health care package identical to what other system employees have.

The state also reported it had withdrawn several proposals as part of those concessions in an effort to reach an agreement. The withdrawn proposals included one that would have required full-time temporary faculty to teach an additional class each semester.

Some professors, however, remained concerned Wednesday that the proposals could be revived.

Picketers across the state said they were not striking solely for health benefits or salary, but to preserve the quality of education for students by supporting everyone from the lowest-level teachers to the most experienced professors.

“We are headed to the picket lines, but even on the picket lines, our phones will be on, should the State System decide it doesn’t want to abandon its students,” union president Kenneth Mash said after greenlighting the walkout.

Late Wednesday night, the union said on its Facebook page that “the strike will end when negotiators reach a contract.” Negotiations have not resumed.

The state has instructed its more than 100,000 students to attend classes unless the university indicates otherwise.

But many students said Wednesday their teachers had joined the walkout, leaving classrooms empty.

The union includes faculty and coaches from Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester universities of Pennsylvania. State-related schools — Penn State, Temple University, the University of Pittsburgh and Lincoln University —€? are not affected.

Coaches, however, have not set a strike date. They can choose to strike with faculty, strike independently or not at all.

The Pennsylvania state system is one of the nation’s largest public university systems. State funding for the system, at $444 million this year, is about the same as it was 17 years ago, even as full-time enrollment has risen more than 10 percent.

The last faculty contract expired June 30, 2015.

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