HARRISBURG, Pa. — Faculty at Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities are on strike after contract negotiations came to a standstill Tuesday night. More than 5,000 members of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties took to the picket lines early Wednesday morning.

David Chambers, chair of the political science department at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, said the state didn’t return to the bargaining table after its last offer was rejected.

“Our team was available and remained through the night in the negotiation room and in fact attempted a back-channel communication and heard nothing,” Chambers said. “There were no responses from the state system at all.”

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education said it offered $159 million in raises, but the faculty disputes that number. According to Chambers, union negotiators have been unable to find that total in the figures the state system has offered.

“Even if $159 million was true, it’s misleading because it does not take into consideration the $70 million to $90 million that the chancellor is asking for in givebacks,” Chambers said.

The union said it offered $ 50 million in concessions, but the state system is demanding more.

The last contract expired more than a year ago, and contract talks have been going on for almost two years. The strike is the first since the system was created 34 years ago. According to Chambers, walking off the job was a last resort.

“We were pushed to this point,” he said. “So our hope is that the strike will demonstrate to the chancellor our resolve, which will result in a shorter strike, and hopefully back to the negotiation table.”

Union president Kenneth Mash has said faculty members will return to work when negotiators have agreed on a new contract.

Andrea Sears