Rally Highlights Instructors' Low Pay, University Refusal to Recognize Union
PITTSBURGH, Dec. 5, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Duquesne University adjunct faculty members and more than 100 of their allies gathered today outside Duquesne's Administration Building to participate in a national day of action, calling attention to the plight of low-wage workers in a variety of industries.
The rally, which included local clergy members as well as representatives from area advocacy groups and student organizations, protested adjuncts' poverty-level wages and called on the Duquesne administration to finally recognize the adjuncts' union.
"While most public attention is understandably focused on the employees of the big-box stores and fast-food restaurants," said Stephen Orosz, who graduated from Duquesne University in 1964, "we should not forget that there are other employers who also refuse to recognize the rights of workers or pay them a decent living wage. Sadly, one of them is this fine institution, Duquesne University."
As a part of the protest, the adjuncts delivered petitions bearing more than 20,000 signatures to the university administration, insisting they negotiate a fair contract with the adjuncts' union.
The contingent faculty members in Duquesne's McAnulty College overwhelmingly voted to join the United Steelworkers in the spring of 2012. On May 25, 2012, the university administration signed an agreement stating they would abide by the results of the union election but then quickly changed its mind, claiming a religious exemption.
Father Jack O'Malley, who serves as chaplain of the Allegheny County Labor Council, addressed this claim. "One thing the Catholic Church is real clear about: workers have the right to join a union. Workers have the right to good health care. Workers have the right to a living wage," he said.
Clint Benjamin, an adjunct in Duquesne's English Department, said he keenly felt the common cause the Duquesne adjuncts shared with their allies in fast food and other industries: "We're all the same, all the Whos in Whoville, all the Tiny Tims. We're all in this together."
More than 50 percent of the faculty at Duquesne are adjuncts. Teaching a maximum course load, contingent faculty typically make only $14,000 per year, and adjuncts who are not offered a full load make much less. They are also not eligible for employer-sponsored medical or retirement benefits.
The AFA-USW is an affiliate of the United Steelworkers, the largest industrial labor union in North America. It promotes the rights of the Non-Tenure Track (NTT) academic workforce in the Pittsburgh area.
SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)