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Labor Dispute At 14 State-Owned Universities Could Disrupt Education

SLIPPERY ROCK (KDKA) -- The vote was overwhelming; 95 percent of faculty at Pennsylvania-owned universities have authorized a strike. But they're not walking out just yet.

The labor dispute at 14 state-owned universities, like Slippery Rock, could disrupt the education of more than 100,000 students statewide.

Rank-and-file members of the Association of State College and University Faculties voted overwhelmingly to give their negotiators the authority to call a strike.

"There's no question that it's a difficult time in paying our bills, but I believe that our universities are profitable and I understand that our faculties' salaries and benefits are only accounting for about one of out of three dollars in the budget," said Patrick Burkhart, the president of APSCUF Slippery Rock Local.

Burkhart is a professor of geology.

He says when it comes to negotiations with the state, the union has been down this same road before.

"The pattern has been one of kind of brinkmanship where it takes getting to the edge of a strike, which is an unfortunate circumstance," said Burkhart. "It makes everybody anxious."

Students on the Slippery Rock campus were expressing concerns about what affect a walkout would have on their education.

"I'm a freshman at Slippery Rock, and my concerns would be that it would push back my graduation a lot, and I wouldn't be able to graduate in the time that I had hoped," said Natalie Francese, a student.

"I don't want to take summer classes," added Chelsea Mathews. "I'm already paying enough money and I don't want to like put it somewhere else."

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