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Duquesne adjuncts' ballots impounded

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012, 3:18 p.m.

The National Labor Relations Board has impounded the ballots in a union-organizing effort by adjunct faculty at Duquesne University, pending the board's decision on an appeal by the university.

Robert Chester, director of the Pittsburgh office of the NLRB, said on Tuesday that the ballots - which were scheduled to be counted that day - will remain in a safe, pending a decision from board headquarters in Washingtonregarding the appeal.

“We are disappointed by this decision,” said Dan Kovalik, general counsel for the United Steelworkers, which the adjuncts hoped to organize under. “We stand by the position that Duquesne, having signed an election stipulation, is subject to the election process and must live with the outcome of the vote by the adjuncts. We will continue to fight for the right of the adjuncts to have their voice heard through a completed board election.”

“We regard the decision to impound the ballots as an appropriate response to the board's review of our motion,” said Duquesne University spokeswoman Bridget Fare. “We continue to maintain our position that we are exempt from the jurisdiction of the NLRB as a religious institution.”

The university agreed in May to have the agency oversee a mail-in ballot by adjunct - or part-time - faculty seeking to organize as the Adjuncts Association of the United Steelworkers.

Duquesne officials later filed a petition seeking to withdraw from the process and asking to be exempted from NLRB oversight on the grounds that it is a religious institution. Although the NLRB regional office in Pittsburgh denied the petition, the Catholic university appealed the decision to the agency's Washington office, which has yet to issue a ruling.

Adjunct faculty members at Duquesne have said they are seeking pay equity, access to health-care benefits and job security.

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