Duquesne Part-time Faculty Vote to Organize!
September 20, 2012 1:08 pm
After a Thursday afternoon ballot count, the NLRB confirmed that part-time faculty at Duquesne University have voted to form a union.
The labor board’s jurisdiction over the case has been highly contested by the Catholic University, who claim that as a church-operated school, the NLRB cannot to oversee union elections. No university representatives bothered to show up at this afternoon’s ballot count, yet several part-time faculty members and United Steelworkers (USW, the union supporting the organizing drive) lawyers were visibly thrilled at the 50-9 affirmative vote.
Duquesne University, along with Saint Xavier University and Manhattan College, has attempted to block adjunct organizing with the religious exemption clause. In all cases, the NLRB ruled that the work of part-time/adjunct instructors is not related to the religious orientation of the institutions. Indeed, Duquesne’s religious affiliation has not prevented negotiation with other unions on campus.
Joshua Zelesnick, a Duquesne English Composition adjunct, spoke to Inside Higher Ed on the peculiar treatment:
They have a history of bargaining with other unions on campus — for instance: they’re not too Catholic to bargain with the Teamsters, who represent the campus police; not too Catholic for other unions. How are they all of a sudden too Catholic for the USW?
In forming a union, Duquesne part-time faculty are looking for more equitable salaries, health benefits and job security. Currently, adjuncts receive $2,500 per class, are limited to teaching four classes a year, receive no health benefits, and are not given their schedules until classes begin. As Duquesne can currently pay poverty-level wages to adjuncts and part-times, perhaps their effort to block a union is not so much about religious exemption as continued access to cheap labor.
The university will almost certainly appeal the NLRB’s jurisdiction, and the eventual result of the organizing drive could affect the fortunes of part-time, private university faculty nationwide.
Image from here