Leading up to the Strike
Union President Barry David (Department of Applied Engineering, Safety and Technology) recalled that the “original motions for a strike-authorization vote occurred in April at Legislative Assembly.”1 Attended by all the delegates from the fourteen state universities, the negotiations committee–or chapter presidents–brought the motion for a strike to the floor. The motion served as a tactical maneuver to exemplify the seriousness of the situation. In the following audio clip, David reflects on the conflicting emotions felt by the negotiations committee when introducing the proposal to strike:
Although the Legislative Assembly tabled the idea, they agreed to arrange an authorization vote during the summer, before extending the decision to a campus wide ratification. Calls concerning the strike first began between the months of May and June, escalating in seriousness during the month of August. The strike authorization vote of Legislative Assembly delegates took place late in the summer, while the campus wide ratification vote occurred during the month of September.
Faculty members reported feelings of anxiety and stress in the days leading up to the strike. This anxious atmosphere stemmed from the uncertainty surrounding the event as many key concerns remained unanswered. Union Vice President Ken Smith (Economics Department) remembered that the main issues most faculty members became concerned about involved “not knowing if we were going to strike, how long it would go, being without pay, and being without health insurance potentially for a while.”3 In the past, while meetings about walking out occurred, the decision to act always fell through. As Smith elaborated, being his “fourth or fifth contract” at Millersville University, “every year it’s gotten close and we avoided it.”4 Faculty and administrators alike thought this would result in nothing more than going through the motions for a strike authorization vote. Kathryn Allen (Chemistry Department) recalled that the “APSCUF meeting just before the strike” had the undercurrent of: “We’re not going to strike. This is just preparing.”5 The reality of the strike failed to register for many interviewees until the first walk-out date.
A few narrators expressed their concern about the strikes’ impact on the university as an institution. Andy Welaish (Director of Library Operations) noted that over the previous years the number of eighteen year old student enrollees dropped due to the demographics of the state. He was concerned that a strike signaled the potential interruption of classes and a negative image, causing possible incoming freshman to choose another institution, and potentially impacting the university’s financial future. State taxes fund the education students receive. If classes are canceled, students can’t learn and tax dollars are wasted. As employees of Millersville University, Welaish felt “we work here out of a sense of duty, and service, and public service, and providing access to an education for students that [they] might not otherwise be able to afford…”7
At the same time, other narrators felt that a walk-out threatened the efficiency of the university. Many different departments worked together to ensure Millersville operated smoothly. The interruption of one of these groups would cause problems for others, affecting the university in the future. In the following audio clip Jeff Adams (Associate Provost) discussed his concerns regarding this issue:
- Barry David (Applied Engineering, Safety and Technology), interview by Elizabeth Nelson and Katie Barrett, November 28, 2016, transcript, Millersville University Special Collections, Millersville, PA.
- Ken Smith (Economics) interview by Hunter Mengel, December 6, 2016, transcript, Millersville University Special Collections, Millersville, PA.
- Kathryn Allen (Organic/Polymer Chemistry) interview by Abigail Gruber, November 15, 2016, transcript, Millersville University Special Collections, Millersville, PA.
- Andy Welaish (Director of Library Operations) interview by Kyle Thomas, December 2, 2016, transcript, Millersville University Special Collections, Millersville, PA.
- Jeff Adams (Past Associate Provote for Academic Administration) interview by Alexander Arnold, December 12, 2016, transcript, Millersville University Special Collections, Millersville, PA.
- PennLive.com, "State universities faculty union leader sets strike date" (video), accessed January 5, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRH-Lpbe0fc.