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YSU, union finalize tentative agreement

YOUNGSTOWN — Members of the faculty union at Youngstown State University were back at their jobs Thursday after a three-day strike was ended by a tentative contract agreement.

The tentative deal reached by university administration and the more than 330-person YSU-Ohio Education Association includes no pay raise in the first year and 2 percent raises in both the second and third year. Contributions to health insurance premiums will stay the same for the first two years of the contract and increase from 15 to 18 percent in the third year.

Also in the agreement is the maintenance of most shared governance rights, including the rights to meaningfully participate in academic program development, determine class sizes and elect department chairs; retention of intellectual rights by faculty members; and protections for the school’s most vulnerable faculty members.

“We wouldn’t have been able to make any headway if we had not been out on the sidewalk with all of the people who supported us,” YSU-OEA President Steven Reale said.

“We cannot fully express our deep appreciation for the students who raised their voices to support us, especially those who joined us on the physical and virtual picket line and who sent us consistent support via social media during this. Students are why we do what we do, and why we fought so hard for an agreement that will guarantee the future of our university,” union spokesperson Mark Vopat said.

Provost Brien Smith said the agreement provides a perfect opportunity for the administration and faculty to come together to create an academic environment of respect, trust and consultation that is squarely focused on the success of all students. He called on the Academic Senate to help lead the way.

“We appreciate the faculty and administration coming together to reach a tentative agreement that helps address the university’s financial needs and that will prevent further disruption in an already challenging year,” said Anita Hackstedde, chair of the YSU Board of Trustees. “We thank students for their patience and look forward to a successful completion of the fall semester.”

A ratification by union members will have to take place and the university’s board of trustees must vote to approve the proposal.

The votes likely will not take place until next week.

“Throughout this process, we heard loud and clear from the faculty about the need to enhance shared governance across campus and to improve the level of trust between the administration and faculty,” Smith said. “We’ve heard you, we couldn’t agree more and we look forward to working collegially on these and many other issues.”

President Jim Tressel added: “We’re so excited to now be able to put our total focus on the exciting opportunities ahead for the university, the community and especially for our students.”

It is the second tentative contract agreement with a YSU employee union in the last week. The university and the union representing classified employees agreed to terms on Friday for a new three-year pact. Ratification votes on that contract are also expected over the next several days.

The tentative agreements with the university’s two largest unions come in the midst of a global pandemic and financial crisis that has caused YSU to layoff 31 nonteaching employees and to implement pay cuts of up to 15 percent for nearly 500 other nonteaching employees. Due in part to the pandemic, the university’s enrollment and state funding dropped this semester, creating a $3.7 million revenue shortfall, the university has said.

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