Members from the Temple Association of University Professionals and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees led a rally last Tuesday in protest of their current contract negotiations with the university.
Approximately 500 Temple students, faculty, and university employees congregated in front of Sullivan Hall to rally while the Board of Trustees met.
TAUP, which consists of 1,250 faculty members, has been negotiating terms for its contract, which was set to expire on Oct. 15, 2008.
University and TAUP representatives have now agreed to extend the current agreement until Nov. 15 and continue to negotiate, said Ray Betzner, director of University Communications.
AFSCME’s contract expired on Oct. 31, 2007. AFSCME consists of more than 750 professional and technical employees on campus including laboratory managers, programmers, analysts and accountants.
Speakers at the rally included: Arthur Hochner, president of TAUP, Paul Dannenfelser, president of AFSCME, Marc Bostic, National American Federation of Teachers representative, Patrick Eiding, president of Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO, Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers; Cathy Scott of AFSCME District Council 47 and Matt Ryan, a member of Student Labor Action Project.
“I am concerned about the labor unrest on campus and how it affects students,” said Ryan, a junior political science major. “There is no justification for this.”
“You have to have faith that your representatives are working for you,” said Ted Kirsch, Pennsylvania AFT representative. “You are not alone.”
The AFT Pennsylvania delegates unanimously voted to support TAUP. Kirsch said it is not just an expression, but a meaningful act. He added it is a strategy of management to divide and conquer.
The attendees responded with repeated chants of, “The workers united will never be divided.”
Participants from TAUP and AFSCME waved signs with phrases such as “Insure Professional Dignity,” “Promote Educational Quality” and “No Favoritism Pay.” Members from SLAP held posters that read, “This campus is a TAUP campus.”
TAUP members said there will not be a strike unless a new contract is not in place after the Fall 2008 semester.
“We thought when the president and provost came to Temple it would be the start of a new era,” Hochner said. “I am extremely disappointed.”
Members criticized President Ann Weaver Hart for not keeping her promises of change to the university.
“Together we want to send a message to Temple that they have to give a fair and living wage to employees,” said Joyce Lindorff, vice president of TAUP.
Hochner said the Temple Times has printed false information about the status of the negotiations.
The Temple Times stated that negotiations were going well, but Hochner said those claims are inaccurate.
“What we have put in the Temple Times has been very accurate based on the conversations I’ve had,” Betzner said.
“Temple should be ashamed to put out nonsensical and outright lies,” Hochner said. “It’s unethical and illegal. We want the university to be run in a collegiate manner where all voices are respected. We are not going to be quiet.”
Attendees at the rally shouted, “No contract, no peace.”
Lindorff said the main issue is the new “pay-for-performance” plan in the contract, which the university has not clearly explained.
“They can talk about [pay-for-performance], but not in a way in which we can understand it,” Hochner said. “They can explain the concept, but not how it would work. We can’t agree to something if we don’t know how it will work.”
Temple first gave details of its salary proposal to TAUP on Thursday, Oct. 9. They proposed a 2 percent across-the-board raise, which would be reduced to 1 percent by the end of the contract. TAUP has proposed a salary increase of 4 percent across the board and 1 percent merit, rising to 4 percent and 2 percent respectively, in the final year of the contract.
TAUP is also concerned about the increase in health insurance costs and job security for non-tenure track faculty members.
Hochner said a sizeable proportion of the faculty would be negatively affected by the recent university proposals.
He said Temple raised tuition this year as it does every year, but claimed overhead expenses went up.
“Well, our expenses go up, too,” Hochner said. “We deserve to be treated fairly and with equity.”
“Temple employees have been held hostage by a talented university,” Dannenfelser said. “They’re opening the door to discrimination and exploitation. It’s the continuation of the old administration. It’s a top-down anti-worker disgrace, and it’s ultimately the students who lose the most.”
TAUP members said they hope the rally will raise awareness of the contract issue.
“The support at the rally was really inspiring and encouraging,” Lindorff said. “It’s not just us at the negotiating table. It’s all 1,300 of us.”
“We are a thriving institution, not a failing bank,” Hochner said. “How about giving us our due?”
Kathryn A. López can be reached at email@example.com.