Organizing to improve the working conditions of the NTT faculty workforce in the Pittsburgh area, the Adjunct Faculty Association of the USW has undertaken two main efforts.
1) In the spring of 2011, adjunct instructors from Duquesne University’s McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts organized a union for part-time NTT faculty members. Over the course of a year, they spoke with their colleagues and identified needed improvements to working conditions, including fair wages, access to health care, and job security. They collected union authorization cards from a strong majority of the adjunct faculty members in the college and requested recognition from the university administration.
Duquesne refused to recognize the union voluntarily or through a card-check election with a neutral third party (we suggested Labor Chaplain, Father Jack O’Malley). The university’s Vice President for Business and Management Steve Schillo asked the Adjunct Faculty Association to go to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to file for an election there. The university signed an agreement to hold the election, and it was scheduled to take place by mail over the span of two weeks ending July 10. One week before the election was set to begin, three weeks after signing the agreement; Duquesne claimed religious exemption from the NLRB and filed a motion to halt the process. The regional office of the NLRB quickly rejected the motion and ruled that the election would go forward. The Adjunct Faculty in the McAnulty College voted in the election, but their ballots were impounded and remained uncounted for two months.
After a long wait, the Washington D.C. office of the NLRB ordered that the votes be counted based on the signed election agreement, leaving Duquesne’s religious exemption undecided. Although the Adjunct Faculty Association of the USW was victorious by a strong margin of 50 to 09, Duquesne University denied the union’s request to bargain and appealed again.
While the Adjunct Faculty Association union remains unrecognized by Duquesne, members are energized by their victory and have begun to exert the power of their union through solidarity among adjuncts and other supporters in the college.
2) Countering Contingency: Teaching, Scholarship, and Creativity in the Age of the Adjunct is an academic conference being organized by NTT faculty members from various colleges and universities in western Pennsylvania.
The conference is an invitation to imagine the answers to crucial questions raised by NTT faculty’s tenuous position:
- How can we use what we know to create a more sustainable and equitable labor and educational system–one that will benefit everyone at the university?
- What change is most needed?
- What does it mean to constitute the new faculty majority at your college or university?
The conference was been set for April 5-7, 2013.