Essential Pittsburgh
4:35 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

Organizers Hope Point Park Is Just The First to Unionize

Credit Robert Couse-Baker / Flickr

Point Park University Adjunct Facility have voted to unionize and the administration seems to be ready to let that happen. 

“This is long over due,” said PPU adjunct English and French teacher Rebecca Taksel.  “We adjuncts… have been marginalized for so long.”

Following the 172-79 vote, the University responded with a written statement, which read in part,

“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 university had originally fought the unionization effort run by the United Steel Workers. 

“As soon as we are officially recognized next Wednesday (July 2) we will be sending them (University administrators) a letter asking them for dates for bargaining,” said USW organizer Randa Ruge who thinks they will be able to negotiate better pay for the workers.

Full-time Point Park faculty voted a decade ago to form a union but the school scuttled the plan by appealing the vote, saying the workers had managerial duties and therefore could not unionize.  That matter is still bound up in the legal system.

Taksel said the effort this spring has not only been rewarding for the part time teachers but it has also galvanized efforts across the city to unionize low-wage workers.

“I have sat on panels with the hospital workers, I’ve sat with the casino workers and the fast food workers, there was no discrimination against me because I was a hoity-toity college professor,” said Taksel.

Ruge hopes the yes vote will lead to adjunct faculty at other universities in the city taking similar votes.  She said one of the biggest hurdles is the fact that many adjuncts can be “bought off” with a nominal raise.  Ruge believes the only way to hold on to those gains it to obtain the protection of a union.

She believes there are as many as 6,000 adjunct faculty workers at the region's institutions of higher education.