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NLRB Announces Landslide Victory for the Adjunct Faculty Association at Duquesne University


For more information, contact: Jeff Cech.

PITTSBURGH – The United Steelworkers (USW) congratulates members of the Adjunct Faculty Association for its successful union election.  The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced a 50 to 9 win for the adjuncts in Duquesne University’s McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts.

“We are delighted, but not surprised, that the adjuncts of McAnulty College so strongly favor seeking to improve our working conditions through collective bargaining,” Adjunct Instructor Robin Sowards says,  “And, we are hopeful that Duquesne’s administration will see this as a sign that immediately negotiating in good faith is the most prudent course of action.”

“At this point, we believe Duquesne has a legal duty to bargain with the USW as the collective bargaining agent of the adjuncts,” explains USW General Council Dan Kovalik, “and we’re disappointed that they’ve already announced their intentions to shirk their legal and moral obligations.”

Congratulating those who worked to build the union in Duquesne’s liberal arts college, USW International President Leo W. Gerard says, “The adjuncts faculty from Duquesne should proudly celebrate their victory as a triumph of solidarity.”  He adds, “We will continue to fight for them in the face of opposition from the administration.” Calling the Adjunct Faculty Association an asset to the USW, Gerard says, “They contribute to the diversity that makes the USW  strong.  We’ve won contracts for factory workers, nurses, flight attendants and lawyers. Now we’re proud to support adjunct instructors in their fight for a fair contract.”

The USW is continuing with its city-wide campaign to organize the adjunct instructor workforce in the Pittsburgh Area, and welcomes part-time faculty members from all colleges and universities to contact us. The USW represents about 850,000 working men and women in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean in a wide variety of industries, ranging from glassmaking to mining, paper, steel, tires and rubber to the public sector, education, clerical, service workers and health care industries.

Filed under News
Sep 20, 2012

CFP: Countering Contingency: Teaching, Scholarship, and Creativity in the Age of the Adjunct


– Call for Participation –

Countering Contingency: Teaching, Scholarship, and Creativity in the Age of the Adjunct

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
April 5-7, 2013

Inspired by the Non-Tenure-Track (NTT or adjunct) conversation sparked by Web sites like the New Faculty Majority and the Adjunct Project, a push to improve NTT working conditions by the MLA, and the effort to organize by NTT Faculty at Duquesne University, this conference offers an opportunity to think more deeply about the state of contingent, non-tenure-stream faculty. We invite proposals for papers, panels, workshops, roundtables, and creative presentations highlighting, critiquing, and theorizing how the unstable and unsustainable working conditions of NTT faculty impact intellectual work; narrating or analyzing the logistical challenges of serving as NTT teachers, scholars, and artists; discussing the working conditions that call for revision. Contingent labor constitutes the majority of faculty, yet NTT faculty are the lowest paid and most overburdened workers. We represent the foundation of academic experiences at the undergraduate level and offer irreplaceable interactions with students. We are artists, scholars, researchers, and examples of inspired teaching. This conference is an invitation to imagine the answers to crucial questions raised by our tenuous position: How can we use what we know to create a more sustainable and equitable labor and educational system, one that will benefit everyone at the university? What change is most needed? What does it mean to constitute the new faculty majority at your college or university?

Proposals for papers, panels, or roundtables are invited on the following topics:

  • maintaining a scholarly or creative life in an era of non-tenured faculty invisibility
  • documenting the institutional experiences of contingent faculty and their students
  • comparative analyses of salary, contracts, and other aspects of employment
  • histories of academic labor struggles
  • best practices for contingent faculty
  • unionization for contingent faculty
  • the proletarianization of the professoriate
  • links between this labor struggle and others past and present (especially in the Pittsburgh area)
  • any topic related to these concerns

Proposals for non-traditional modes of participation are welcome as well. Some formats for these might include:

  • art and creative writing panels (framed by your experience of creating this work under NTT working conditions or about the experiences of NTT faculty)
  • interactive workshops that seek audience participation in ways that help us all to analyze and think reflexively about higher education institutions, funding, or any aspect of academic labor and life
  • short performance pieces or multimedia presentations
  • any other ideas you have for participation, just give us the details

Please email if you are interested in participating in, helping to plan,
or attending the conference. For paper proposals, please send a 250-word abstract and short bio paragraph. For panels and roundtables, please send a 250-word panel description, plus 250-word abstracts of all papers/comments and bio paragraphs for all participants. For non-traditional ideas for participation or workshops, please send a 250- to 500-word description of your idea and a short bio paragraph for each participant. The deadline for submission of all proposals is September 15, 2012. Participants will hear back from the planning committee around October 15 at the latest, but please send your materials early and let us know if you need an early decision in order to facilitate travel funding requests at your institution. Informal inquiries before sending formal proposals are welcomed and encouraged for non-traditional presentations and workshops. Proposals from workers and scholars in the Pittsburgh region will be given priority.

Filed under Information
Aug 1, 2012

A Message From the United Steelworkers in Pittsburgh


by Jeff Cech

I am a union organizer, not an adjunct. I was given permission to write an entry for this blog, and I’m honored to do so. In March 2012 I was hired by the United Steelworkers (USW), and was made lead organizer on the adjuncts’ campaign at Duquesne University in the McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts. The adjunct faculty members I’ve met in the last several months have been some of the most decent, hardest working people I’ve had the good fortune of shaking hands with.

The Duquesne adjuncts first approached the USW during the 2011 Spring Semester, and our Assistant Director of Organizing, Maria Somma, asked them to investigate traditional faculty unions. They returned because they were drawn to the clout the USW has in the Pittsburgh area and our dedication to a democratic union with a high level of autonomy in our Locals. We’re glad they chose the USW, and we’re excited to represent them in collective bargaining.

Organizing at Duquesne started with a word of mouth campaign that included handing out pamphlets spelling out the reasons for organizing a union and the process of doing so. Over the course of a year, the Adjunct Association of the United Steelworkers quietly grew support from adjunct and tenure track colleagues in various departments of the College. Shortly after I came on board, we started asking adjunct faculty members to sign union authorization cards.

Union Authorization cards are what allow a union to ask the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to run an election. When you collect cards from a minimum of 30% of the proposed bargaining unit and turn them in to the NLRB, the government agency begins a conversation between the union and the employer that will determine which employees have the right to vote in the election and a date for the election to take place. When the union wins a simple majority of votes cast, the employer is obligated to begin bargaining in good faith to produce a contract.

Employees everywhere are naturally afraid of their bosses, and this makes many hesitant to sign union authorization cards. They’re afraid that it will get back to the employer that they signed a card and they’ll lose their job. Some employers use scare tactics and bring in expensive “consultants” to intimidate workers. From what I’ve observed, universities don’t need to. The instability of the entire adjunct system creates a high enough level of work place anxiety on its own. When you rely on employment that must be renewed before every semester, you don’t have low job security, you have no job security. This heightens the sense of risk for adjuncts, and makes it hard for them to stand up for themselves. When you work long, tiring hours, but you’re paid so little that you live below the poverty line, it erodes an individual’s sense of dignity. Many who work as adjunct instructors for an extended period of time begin to think they get what they’re worth, which simply isn’t true at any university I’ve seen. Like all workers, adjuncts deserve Job Security, Equitable Wages, Respectful Treatment by management (administration), and Access to Healthcare. The adjuncts at Duquesne have worked hard to organize a difficult campaign, and it’s far from over.

The election will take place by mail ballot through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). On June 22 the NLRB will send out the ballots to adjunct instructors, and after two weeks pass, on July 9, a board officer will count votes from ballots returned to them.

If you support our effort, no matter where you are, please send Letters to the Editor of our local papers (The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Pittsburgh Tribune Review) encouraging the adjuncts at Duquesne, and email the Duquesne adjuncts’ Volunteer Organizing Committee ( and we can pass on your messages of solidarity.

The use of an exploited workforce is on the rise at institutions of higher education, and it’s the responsibility of all workers to stand together and demand fairness for adjuncts. That’s why the United Steelworkers have given me the go ahead to organize adjuncts at any college or university in the Pittsburgh area where members of the workforce express interest. If you’re an adjunct in Pittsburgh and you want to organize with the USW, email me at


Filed under Information
May 25, 2012

Explore the Data

Research adjunct pay and working conditions at thousands of schools across the country. Check out the data at The Chronicle of Higher Education's Adjunct Project 2.0.