RMU adjuncts look to unionize

February 25, 2015

Bob Trosky, Robert Morris University adjunct and member of the Adjunct Volunteer Organizing Committee, says that Feb. 25 or National Adjunct Walkout Day is about raising awareness for Robert Morris, not the disruption of classes.

Last year, a majority of RMU adjuncts mailed a card to the National Labor Relations Board, which allows for a unionization vote to take place. The RMU Adjunct Faculty Association’s lead organizer, Jeff Cech, spoke with one of Trosky’s classes about the beginnings of a union at Robert Morris.

“One of the things that is very important to the labor movement is that people have a voice in their workplace,” said Cech. “The ability to talk freely and to speak openly about your issues on the job.”

Robert Morris adjuncts will be mailed a ballot on Mar. 2. If 50 percent or more of the ballots make it back to the National Labor Relations Board with a positive response, the adjuncts will become unionized. A public counting will be held at the Pittsburgh NLRB Regional office on Mar. 17.

Even if the adjuncts become a union, “it’s up to Robert Morris to recognize that we are a union as well,” Trosky said.

Cole Antolak of the Student Solidarity Organization, a newly formed student group ready to fight for student rights and against injustice, feels the vote will go well and a union will be formed.

“I don’t think they [Robert Morris] will be necessarily happy because it forces them to bargain with another union,” said Antolak.

Duquesne University recently cited themselves as a religious institution and self concluded that there would not be an adjunct union at the university despite a vote that unionized the part-time faculty. A federal court will decide the outcome of that case.

According to collegefactual.com, 58 percent of the faculty at Robert Morris are adjuncts, nearly 10 percent over the national average. In response to a letter sent to the part-time faculty by the President’s Office after the initial petition to unionize, the Adjunct Volunteer Organizing Committee says their yearly salary can top out at $16,200 if they teach their full load of courses per semester. The poverty guideline for a household of two was $15,730 in 2014.

“It’s about the students” said Trosky, and he feels confident that the vote will side with the adjuncts and that Robert Morris University will recognize their union.

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    Concerned StudentFeb 28, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    While I understand the use of a union, I think it’s important to recognize what interests are being represented in this election.

    First off, you have the United Steel Workers, who will be representing the adjuncts. An industrial union with flatlining membership, the USW is turning to other industries to get more membership dues. But will the largest industrial labor union really be best at representing the adjuncts at a small, private, nonprofit university?

    Second, you have the adjuncts. I recognize and sympathize with the hardships they face, but they can be faced without a union. One thing many people do not realize about a union is that the union can not get you anything. They can only ask the employer for you. For that privilege, you pay membership dues. On the other hand, one can look at recent examples like WalMart to see progress being made without a union.

    Third, you have the students. Despite the existence of a “Student Solidarity Organization”, the only one representing the students in this negotiation is the University. Why do I say this? Hypothetically, imagine the union negotiated an increase in adjunct salaries. The university has to pay them more, right? Well, that’s not the entire truth – with the exception of certain grants for capital projects, WE, the students, pay all of those costs. RMU isn’t cheap as it is, and most likely, an adjunct union will mean higher prices for us.

    Think about these three groups, and you’ll notice clear winners and losers.

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