10/02/2015

Adjuncts win right to union vote at Temple

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Adjunct faculty at Temple University have won the opportunity to vote "union, yes." The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board ruled Sept. 29 that adjuncts may hold an election and choose whether to join their full-time colleagues in the faculty-staff union local, the Temple Association of University Professionals. Elections have not yet been scheduled, but TAUP is already preparing the paperwork to welcome them to the fold, fully expecting an affirmative vote.

A Temple adunct celebrates the decisionThe PLRB decision, though it was months in the making, was irrefutable. The board rejected every one of Temple's arguments against the adjuncts and included a long list of reasons the adjuncts and the full-timers have a "community of interest." This was the key requirement for adjuncts to join the tenured and tenure-track faculty, nontenured faculty, academic staff and librarians who are already members of TAUP.

PLRB enumerated many shared characteristics between adjuncts and full-time faculty—characteristics familiar to adjuncts at countless campuses across the nation. The board pointed out that the groups have identical teaching responsibilities, work on the same campuses and in the same classrooms, teach the same courses, and have nearly the same educational requirements.

Both groups are "typically expected to have a terminal degree in their field," the ruling continued. They have offices in the same areas as full-time faculty members, and sometimes even share offices with them. "If that were not enough," wrote the PLRB, "adjunct faculty members interact with full- time faculty members on a regular basis."

Further, "Temple's argument that there is an alleged conflict of interest between the adjunct and full-time faculty, which destroys any community of interest, is untenable." Other issues raised by Temple were similarly dismissed.

"This is a great day for our union," wrote TAUP President Art Hochner in a memo to colleagues. "Adjuncts deserve a voice and a seat at the table. Not only do we have a legal community of interest, but we also have many common interests: our students' education, the advancement of knowledge, Temple's historic mission, and our material well-being."

The administration is less enthusiastic: The provost's announcement of the decision was disapproving, and faculty say deans have warned that any gains made by adjuncts could come at the expense of full-timers.

TAUP is clear on that point: "This is not a zero-sum game," says Hochner. The proof is in the successful partnerships among the tenure-track and nontenure-track faculty, librarians and academic professionals who already work in solidarity within the local.

"What I've learned in my 37 years at Temple is that everyone does better when we bargain together," says Hochner. "There is plenty of room for adjuncts. Once they vote to join TAUP, our union will have a united faculty, working to balance the interests of all, and will be even stronger than before."

[Virginia Myers]