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Faculty at Pasco-Hernando State get a win in first union challenge

The group had declared impasse in negotiations over contract terms.
The $45 million Porter Campus of Pasco-Hernando State College, where school officials and the faculty union are in contract talks.
The $45 million Porter Campus of Pasco-Hernando State College, where school officials and the faculty union are in contract talks.
Published Oct. 28, 2020

The faculty union at Pasco-Hernando State College came into being two years ago, born of frustration that mounted over having no say about working conditions and pay.

It notched its first notable win this week, as a special magistrate took the group’s side after it declared impasse in contract talks that faltered after a year of negotiations.

At issue, the terms governing employee discipline.

The union called for a grievance procedure and arbitration, while the college sought to stick with the status quo relying more on administrative hearings and litigation. The administration did not want language about discipline in the contract.

Magistrate Stanley Michelstetter wrote in his Oct. 24 recommended order that the union’s position was more in line with the public interest than the college’s arguments, three of four he stated were without merit or misleading.

Michelstetter cited two reasons for that opinion. “First, the current system is procedurally slow and less in the public interest,” he wrote. "Second, the current policies of the board and, therefore, the current procedure are defective with respect to the level of discipline and less in the public interest.”

Faculty union leaders celebrated the recommendation.

“Mr. Michelstetter was an independent objective third party who developed a compromise and creative solution that will make PHSC a better work environment for faculty and the administration,” said Gary Oesch, a psychology professor and chairman of the group’s bargaining committee. “We hope that the PHSC Board of Trustees will also agree to this solution.”

Union president Caitlin Gille noted that the sides have had few major disputes, and were able to settle most issues amicably. She expressed optimism that the college leadership would agree with the magistrate’s proposed contract language.

A spokeswoman for the college said the school administration would not make a statement at this point in the process.