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Duquesne adjuncts vote to unionize

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Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012, 2:00 p.m.

Duquesne University adjunct instructors on Thursday won a vote to organize as a collective bargaining unit known as the Adjunct Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers.

Although a preliminary ballot count conducted on Thursday showed the university's part-time faculty winning the vote 50-9, Duquesne officials vowed to contest the group's right to unionize and noted that 29 of the 88 instructors eligible to join the unit did not vote.

“We will be following the appeals process,” said Duquesne spokeswoman Bridget Fare.

The part-time instructors, who make up about 60 percent of the faculty in Duquesne's McAnulty College, announced in the spring their intent to try organizing. The group, which works under semester-by-semester contracts, is seeking access to health care and improved working conditions and wages.

Although Duquesne initially agreed to abide by the results of a union election, the university later appealed to the National Labor Relations Board, saying its status as a religious institution should exempt it from NLRB oversight. Ballots were impounded until Sept. 14 when the NLRB ordered a count, stipulating that Duquesne could renew its appeal if the adjuncts won their election.

Even so, adjuncts said they are buoyed by the election results.

“We're already certified by the federal government and justified by Catholic social teachings, so we intend to start immediately acting to improve our working conditions. 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,” adjunct instructor Robin Sowards said.

“At this point, we believe Duquesne has a legal duty to bargain with the USW as the collective-bargaining agent of the adjuncts,” said USW General Counsel Dan Kovalik, adding the union is disappointed with the university's reaction.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or

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