By Bryan O'Keefe
As somebody interested in labor issues and from the state of Pennsylvania, I have watched with some interest the recent contract negotiations in the Keystone state between the state faculty unions and the Commonwealth's higher ed system. Inside Higher Ed -- as is always the case -- has an excellent summary of the situation today.
Basically, there was a lot of smoke but not much fire. The faculty kept talking about strikes, walkouts, etc. but, in the end, both sides came to an agreement that avoided any major disruptions. While I am not familiar with all of the contract specifics, it seems at first glance that the professors have done quite well for themselves -- they will continue to receive raises, though it should be noted that these raises are not outrageous in any respect. They will also have to contribute a bit more for their health insurance, but I still think that most average Pennsylvania workers pay more in out-of-pocket costs for health coverage.
All in all, this probably is not a terrible deal for Pennsylvania taxpayers -- but the larger questions about faculty unions in general remains. Do they raise cost beyond what is necessary? Will their possible growth in the future mean higher college tuition for everyone else? In fact, I think it's critical to see if the Pennsylvania state schools raise tuition next year and, when asked for some reasons, point to this new contract.