YSU-OEA Dangles Strike Possibility If Talks Stall

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Youngstown State University’s 329-member faculty union, YSU-OEA, voted overwhelmingly today to authorize union leadership to issue a 10-day “notice to strike” should contract negotiations stall.

Of the 282 member votes cast, 97% (273) of members voted for strike authorization, 1% (two) voted against and 2% (seven) abstained from voting, the union said.

Although a strike is not imminent and a second strike vote would need to be taken before such a step could be taken. “Today’s vote clearly indicates that YSU’s faculty will not accept a contract designed to fundamentally dismantle shared governance, and that they are prepared to strike if a fair contract is not offered by administration during negotiations,” the union said in a release.

Here is the remaining text of the union’s announcement:

A fact-finder’s report will be issued by an impartial mediator in August or September. At that point, the public will be informed about specific details in the contract proposals. The YSU-OEA and the YSU Board of Trustees will have an opportunity to review the report and vote to accept it, which would bring bargaining to a close, or to reject it, in which case the YSU-OEA and the administration can choose to continue negotiating.

Many YSU faculty believe that the administration’s proposals during negotiations signal a lack of respect for faculty’s instrumental role in student success and, if implemented, would undermine the quality of programs offered at YSU and represent a broadside attack on shared governance, the long-held principle that universities are designed to be democratic institutions that function best when decision-making includes and leverages faculty expertise in said decisions.

“The YSU-OEA has maintained since March that it is unwise to continue negotiating a three-year contract in the midst of a pandemic, when clarity and detailed information is scarce and when faculty should be focusing on planning their courses for a still uncertain fall semester,” said Mark Vopat, YSU-OEA spokesperson.

As it did across the globe, a state of chaos emerged at YSU following the emergence of COVID-19 and the resultant switch to remote learning in Spring 2020. Unfortunately, this chaos intensified with the administration’s hasty, unilateral, and reckless reorganization of YSU’s academic units over the summer under the cover of a pandemic and without faculty input, fundamentally betraying the university’s principles of shared governance in the minds of many faculty members. Additionally, more than 50 classified and professional staff from across the university were laid off during reorganization this summer. 

It remains unclear how the administration hopes to continue providing the services the university has historically rendered — services vital to its educational mission — once students and faculty return in the fall. Many faculty believe that the administration simply does not understand how the reorganization, combined with large-scale layoffs, will negatively impact their ability to meet students’ needs. 

“The YSU-OEA is hopeful that we can avoid a strike, as we have done in every contract negotiation for the past 15 years,” Vopat said. “However, the administration must demonstrate its willingness to put YSU’s resources where its priority is supposed to be: student success.”

“The administration fails to recognize that dismantling shared governance and overworking faculty, many of whom must now add fulfilling the tasks of staff who were laid off to their already high workloads, all without providing clear and viable guidance on creating a safe learning environment during the COVID-19 pandemic, drastically impedes that priority.”

Due to a mutually agreed-upon media blackout during bargaining, YSU-OEA cannot comment on specific aspects of negotiations. However, given the results of the strike authorization vote, YSU faculty have demonstrated that they are highly engaged, highly organized and highly dissatisfied with the administration’s recent actions, and what these actions say about the administration’s priorities and opaque plan to navigate YSU successfully through the pandemic.


Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.