Point Park University adjunct instructors vote to form union, 172-79

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Higher wages, job security, health benefits, office space.

Those are some of the issues that adjunct instructors at Point Park University hope to bring to the table when they begin negotiating as a collective bargaining unit under the auspices of the Adjunct Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers.

A majority of the adjuncts at the Downtown university voted for USW representation in a mail-ballot election ending this week. The final tally was 172-79.

Votes were counted Wednesday afternoon in a hearing room on the ninth floor of the Federal Building, where regional offices of the National Labor Relations Board are housed. About a dozen instructors were present for the count.

They lost no time claiming the vote as a turning-point in the drive to organize part-time instructors nationwide.

“This will have national repercussions,” said Rebecca Taksel, who teaches English and French, alongside additional jobs that help supplement her income. Judith Cohen, an adjunct at Point Park for more than a decade, said she and her colleagues have “taken a stand for fair wages.”

Randa Ruge, a USW organizer leading the Point Park drive, said she plans to help instructors elsewhere do the same, including at other institutions in Pittsburgh.

Winning such an election does not always lead to immediate results. Two similar efforts are stalled in legal battles — one among full-time faculty at Point Park and one involving adjuncts at Duquesne University, where the university argues it is exempt as a church-operated school.

Point Park said Tuesday it will respect the outcome of this election. “We respect the decision made by those eligible to vote and look forward to working with all faculty members to fulfill Point Park’s mission of educating the next generation,” Lou Corsaro, a spokesman for the university, said in a statement.

Without objection, the bargaining unit will gain recognition in seven days, according to NLRB rules. Ms. Ruge said the USW will send out bargaining surveys on Thursday to gauge priorities and, next week, ask the university for dates to begin negotiating.

Adjuncts interviewed said a raise would top their demands. Their compensation currently ranges from $2,091 to $2,727 per course, according to the university.

A total of 422 ballots were sent out for the mail-in election. Two votes were voided because of errors in completion, and 15 were challenged — either by the USW in argument that the employee was a supervisor or by the university because of the dates of employment. The challenged votes were not numerous enough to throw the election’‍s result into question.

Isaac Stanley-Becker: istanley-becker@post-gazette.com, 412-263-3775 or on Twitter @isb_isaac.

First Published June 25, 2014 12:00 AM

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