Adjunct professors from Duquesne University are petitioning the National Labor Relations Board this afternoon to hold an election to unionize.
The move comes just a few hours after the Adjunct Association of the United Steelworkers Union unsuccessfully asked the school to voluntarily recognize the union, according to Robin Soward, a member of the Duquesne Adjunct Faculty Association's volunteer organization.
A union bid would affect 124 adjuncts in the McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts. Once the petition is filed, Soward says an election should be held within 45 days, though if the petition is approved, Duquesne will have the opportunity to file any legal challenges. If the union prevails, and wins the election, it can begin negotiating for the instructors.
Soward says a majority of the adjuncts have already signed cards supporting a union.
"Only a handful of professors have voiced opposition overall," Soward says. "But that's not entirely surprising given how poorly we're paid."
Soward says adjuncts currently make a little over $2,500 per course and are limited to teaching two courses per semester and have no access to healthcare. Through negotiations adjuncts would seek higher pay, the ability to teach at least three courses per semester and have healthcare made available.
And while it's too early to know what kind of contracts the prospective union would negotiate, Soward says conditions at universities like George Washington, for example, "improved dramatically" after forming a union.
Duquesne's spokesperson Bridget Fare, said via email that the university won't be discussing details of the meeting or the decision. Duquesne, she says, "will be following the NLRB process."