Kent State’s tenure-track faculty are under the gun to get a new contract before Election Day Nov. 8.
If they don’t have a new deal by then, they could be left to the whims of voters, who will decide whether to overturn the hotly contested Senate Bill 5, which limits the issues on which public employees may collectively bargain.
S.B. 5 is Issue 2 on the statewide ballot.
“Our goal is to have a new contract in place by the time the current one expires” on Aug. 22, said Eric Mintz, an associate professor of biology who is the chief negotiator for the 800-plus members of the Kent chapter of the American Association of University Professors.
Kent State is among more than half of the tax-supported universities in Ohio with faculty in negotiations. Cleveland State, Youngstown State, Wright State, the University of Toledo, Bowling Green State University and Central State, as well as the two-year Cincinnati State and North Central State, all have contracts that expired months ago or are poised to expire.
The prevailing belief is that contracts in place if state Issue 2 is approved would be in force for the life of the agreement.
With that possibility on the table, it is a difficult time to negotiate, said Sara Kilpatrick, executive director of the Ohio conference of the AAUP.
“Some administrations are dragging things out to see what happens on Nov. 8,” she said, “and others are holding S.B. 5 over faculty’s heads, thinking they’d rather have a bad contract than no contract at all.”
Mintz said he saw no evidence that KSU officials were trying to slow down the process. He said talks had been cordial.
KSU spokeswoman Emily Vincent said she had no comment about negotiations.
Still, Mintz has a challenge ahead of him to wrap up negotiations in the next two weeks or so, as talks started only last month and economic issues have yet to be discussed.
At the last contract negotiations, in 2008, talks were contentious. Faculty rejected KSU’s offer to continue the current contract for an additional year and threatened to strike.
Just hours before faculty were to walk out, both sides agreed to a three-year package that included wage increases of at least 9 percent over the life of the contract, benefits for the partners of heterosexual and homosexual couples, higher minimum salaries, bigger promotional raises and bonuses if KSU met certain goals.
That led to KSU paying out its first awards through the success pool — $2.7 million at $2,855 per full-time AAUP faculty member in the first year of the contract. Goals weren’t met in the second year of the contract and no bonuses
were paid. Numbers are pending to determine whether bonuses will be paid in the third year.
“We’re quite happy with our current contract,” Mintz said. He declined to discuss specifics of current negotiations.
Meanwhile, two other faculty contracts in the area will continue as usual for at least another year.
The University of Akron’s four-year contract runs into December 2013. The contract for nontenure-track faculty — instructors who don’t have virtually lifetime employment — at KSU continues through next summer.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at email@example.com or 330-996-3729.