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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Steelworkers declare victory in organizing Point Park University adjuncts

Posted By on Wed, Jun 25, 2014 at 4:40 PM

The Adjunct Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers (AFA-USW), says adjunct instructors at Point Park University have voted to form a union. After a campaign that has been underway for the first half of 2014, the vote in favor was 172 to 79; a handful of additional votes are under review.

"The adjunct instructors have spoken very clearly with this vote," Steelworkers International President Leo W. Gerard said in a statement. "Now it's time for the Point Park administration to work with them to craft a fair collective bargaining agreement."

In the university's own statement, spokesman Lou Corsaro acknowledged that "adjunct faculty voted in favor of United Steel Workers representation. We are pleased that so many adjunct faculty members took the time to make their voices heard on this important issue. 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."

The vote was carried out earlier this month by mail-in ballot; some 314 adjuncts were eligible to vote.

Organizers were giddy about the results.

"It's a decisive victory," said Matthew Ussia, a volunteer with the union who himself works as a non-tenure-track/full time teacher at Duquesne University, by phone. "We're still reveling. I'm actually standing outside Tonic [a bar not far from the federal Department of Labor office where the votes were counted] right now."

The next step, Ussia says, is that the adjuncts will choose a bargaining team and seek to begin negotiations with Point Park. Ussia said he couldn't provide a timeline for that yet, though he said, "I think people will want to move quickly, now that we have momentum."

Union allies were quick to trumpet the outcome. Adjuncts are "saying NO to poverty wages ... and yes to fairness and workers' voices on the job," said Barney Oursler, the executive director of economic-justice group Pittsburgh UNITED, in a statement. "We expect that the University will respect their worker's voices and their rights and move into negotiations in good faith and without a challenge."

A previous union bid at Point Park hasn't gone quite that smoothly. As City Paper noted in April, Point Park has been engaged in a decade-long fight against a bid to organize full-time instructors at the school. RJ Hufnagel, a spokesman for the Steelworkers union, acknowledged that history. But even so, he added, "Today is a good day."

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