The Lead

‘We’re not going anywhere’: HACC union, supporters rally in Harrisburg

By: - October 11, 2023 4:35 pm

Kelly Matthews, senior professor of Chemistry at HACC speaks at a rally supporting unionized faculty members of Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) at the Capitol on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023 (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller).

Teachers at Harrisburg Area Community College joined lawmakers and supporters at the Capitol on Wednesday to rally in support of unionized workers across the community college’s five locations who are calling for an end to what they describe as union-busting tactics by the college administration.

Harrisburg Area Community College Educators Association (HACCEA), the 250-member faculty organization that voted to unionize with the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) in April 2022, is currently bargaining its first contracts with the college, Kathy Sicher, president of HACCEA, said. 

Sicher told the Capital-Star that she’s hopeful HACCEA will see some movement on contract negotiations as bargaining with the college continues over the next few months.

HACC said it was aware of the union’s rally at the Capitol on Wednesday, telling the Capital-Star in an email that it “looks forward to continued negotiations to better serve our students and communities.”

At the rally, Sicher, who is also a professor of Gerontology at HACC, recounted the Aug. 30 incident in which two PSEA members were arrested for trespassing at the college’s Lancaster campus, where the union representatives had a table set up with information for faculty members. 

Two union reps arrested in incident at Harrisburg Area Community College

“I’ll describe a few items that were on this table: stress balls, pens, brochures, buttons, clipboards, reusable grocery bags, Post-it notes, and information about the union,” Sicher said. “Tables by outside entities are placed all the time on HACC campuses, but when the union wants to place an information table, it is rejected and the police are called.”

The college’s behavior that day was an illegal attempt at union busting, Sicher said, adding that “it needs to end now.”

Steve Lustig, a business professor at HACC who also spoke at the rally, said that what happened on Aug. 30 was “appalling, awful, and distressing.”

“We could not have imagined that HACC would threaten us with arrest — three faculty members — and arrest our two union representatives,” he said. 

Lustig, who also serves as faculty organization president, said HACC’s actions that day were a “violation of existing HACC policies” that protect faculty members’ right to speak freely. 

“The sooner they accept that this union —  accept that we are not going anywhere, and accept that we are the legal negotiator for all full-time, part-time, adjunct faculty — the sooner we bargain a fair contract and move past this nonsense,” Sicher, president of HACCEA, said Wednesday. 

Kelly Matthews, senior professor of Chemistry and science department chair at HACC, called on the faculty, the college, and the students to move forward together. 

“We are stronger when we act together,” Matthews said. “We are stronger when we speak with each other, not at each other; when we listen to each other.” 

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.