In what could be the start of an effort to unionize adjunct college faculty across Pittsburgh, a group of non-tenure-track Duquesne University instructors has begun organizing with the United Steelworkers, the union said Wednesday.
Those faculty have formed a group called the Adjuncts Association of the United Steelworkers and are in the process of gathering support required by the National Labor Relations Board to hold a union election at the Catholic university with nearly 10,000 students, the union said.
The goal is to improve job security, pay levels and address what a statement by the steelworkers union describes as inequitable working conditions.
Maria Somma, assistant director of organizing for the steelworkers union, said the effort is starting at Duquesne given early support faculty there have shown, but other campuses in Greater Pittsburgh are being eyed, too.
"We're looking all over the city," she said. "I've had contact and conversations with adjuncts [at] five or six campuses."
She declined to identify the schools.
Duquesne spokeswoman Bridget Fare said she did not know details about the organizing effort. Workplace claims raised by the union have not be brought to the school's administration, except for pay, "which the university has been working to improve over the years," she said.
Adjunct professors account for 40 percent of faculty within Duquesne's McAnulty College & Graduate School of Liberal Arts, according to the union, a number it says is on the rise, mirroring a national trend.
The union said adjunct faculty at Duquesne do not have access to employee health insurance and are hired year to year.
"They have no job security, no ability to plan for the future, and their employment at Duquesne can be severed without reason regardless of their performance or years of service," the union said in a statement.
Many work multiple jobs to sustain themselves financially, making it harder to focus on providing quality education, the union said.
The NLRB requires that at least 30 percent of eligible faculty express support for holding an election, Ms. Somma said, though she said her union typically seeks a larger percentage.
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