YSU Faculty Union Ratifies Tentative Agreement

By Liam Bouquet & Frank George


The Youngstown State University faculty union, YSU-OEA, voted by secret ballot to ratify the proposed three-year contract at a meeting held Feb. 17.


The contract passed by 17 votes, with 207 faculty members casting ballots.


The contract includes no increase in salary for the first year — academic year 2014-2015 — a 1 percent increase in the second year and a 2 percent increase in the third year, as well as increases to bonuses in the second and third year.


This contract offers greater increases in pay than the last tentative contract that the union voted down in November, but union leadership emphasized that the contract was still concessionary.


“Although anyone reviewing the TA might be romanced by the inclusion of bonuses and raises that faculty will receive in years two and three of the contract, it should be pointed out that these increases were TOTALLY subsidized by givebacks from the faculty,” a Feb. 2 union press release stated.


According to the press release, a decrease in compensation given to summer instructors, a reduction in stipends in distances education and other sacrifices paid for the base salary increase. The abolishment of Extended Teaching Service — which the union said has remained in the contract for 40 years — subsidized the bonuses.


According to 2011-2014 faculty contract, ETS was offered to faculty members who completed 10 years of full-time service at the university and were eligible for retirement. They were offered up to 42 hours at the university spread out over five years  — with a maximum of 11 hours per semester and 13 hours per year.


“ETS faculty shall be paid an amount equal to the number of [teaching hours] taught times a percentage of their 9-month salary at the time of their retirement (or a percentage of $100,000, whichever is less),” the 2011-2014 contract reads.


Under the new contract, faculty retiring this year or next will be offered a $40,000 buyout instead; there is no buyout option in the third year of the contract.


Other alterations include changes in health care benefits and the elimination of dean’s reassigned time — an allotment of time offered to professors for other ventures, such as research.


Though the faculty has voted to approve the contract, the YSU Board of Trustees must still meet to hold a vote to approve the contract before the longest lasting faculty negotiations in YSU’s history can come to a close.


“YSU-OEA will continue its efforts to work collaboratively with the administration and with the Board in the future. However, we need to recognize the great sacrifices that faculty have made in both the last contract and this new TA in order to give the university an opportunity to get its financial house in order. This speaks to the dedication of faculty to their students and their commitment to YSU and its mission as an Urban Research Institution,” the press release said.


Ron Cole, YSU’s public information officer, provided an expected timeline for the Board’s vote.


“The Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet this week and next week and is probably likely to review and take a vote next week,” he said.


Not privy to the details of the tentative agreement ratified by the faculty union, YSU Board members could not predict whether the Board would follow suit and also ratify the agreement.


“We’re pleased that the faculty ratified the contract on their end. In regards to specific parts of this agreement, the Board is not being updated until tomorrow,” Carol Weimer, chairperson of the Board, said. “Tomorrow, there will probably be a great deal of discussion, and I can’t anticipate whether there will be any final action taken tomorrow or whether it will come the following week, after there has been an opportunity for Board of Trustee members to get all of the information that they need to make a decision regarding this tentative agreement.”


Trustee Harry Meshel agreed, adding that he wants to know how the agreement will permanently impact the university’s finances before voicing an opinion on the issue.


“I don’t want to be critical of anything yet. I want to read it and find out the details,” Meshel said. “My concern is permanent financial impact on the university budget. What have we done permanently?”