Pennsylvania college coaches authorize union to call strike in stalled labor dispute

A quarterback for Bloomburg University's Huskies football team throws a pass during a game at Redman Stadium in Bloomsburg, Pa. Friday, a union representing athletics coaches at 14 Pennsylvania universities, including Bloomsburg, said it has been authorized by its membership to call a labor strike, if necessary, to break gridlock in negotiations that have persisted for two years. File Photo by Aspen Photo/Shutterstock

HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 16 (UPI) — A union representing hundreds of college athletic coaches and faculty members in Pennsylvania said Friday that members have authorized it to call a labor strike, as a measure to break gridlock that’s lasted at the bargaining table for two years.

The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties said it received approval to call a strike from 94 percent of its coaches who voted this week on the matter.

The vote is the latest act in a labor dispute between the coaches and more than a dozen state universities that officially started in June 2015, when the athletic managers began working without a contract.

At the heart of the dispute is a dramatic rise in the cost of healthcare for the coaches.

A strike could impact athletic events at 14 state colleges: Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester universities.

“The message of today’s vote is a simple one: We do not want to strike, but we won’t allow a large part of our membership to be put in financial peril,” Coach Executive Leader John Gump said in a statement Friday. “A more than 200 percent increase in cost to pay for a healthcare plan that delivers less to many of our members and their families is unacceptable, and we stand together to say the State System has to do better.”

Coaches also want more say in how school athletics are governed and more protection in contract matters.

“Right now, coaches can be [contractually] nonrenewed and not given a reason, and there is no recourse,” Gump said.

“We remain determined to stay at the table with APSCUF to resolve the issues involved in these negotiations so that we can make additional progress toward a settlement,” State System spokesman Kenn Marshall said.

Despite the new threat of a strike, the APSCUF said “little progress” was made at another bargaining session Friday.

“We will go to the table as many times as it takes to reach a contract that preserves quality for our students and is fair to faculty,” APSCUF President Dr. Kenneth M. Mash said. “It is unfair to our students and faculty members to prolong this process.”

No strike date has been set, but the APSCUF said that should be determined at a meeting on Sept. 26. The votes to authorize the strike were cast Wednesday and Thursday. Talks over a new contract have been going on since late 2014, the union said.


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