Philly’s University of the Arts says ‘Union Yes’
PHILADELPHIA—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, AFT Pennsylvania President Arthur Steinberg, United Academics of Philadelphia President Daniel Pieczkolon and faculty members issued the following statement after 356 full- and part-time faculty at University of the Arts in Philadelphia officially joined the AFT with 99 percent voting yes.
AFT Pennsylvania President Arthur Steinberg said:
“I’m proud today to welcome 356 new members into the AFT Pennsylvania family. As the whole world has grappled with the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ensuing economic disaster and the long-overdue reckoning with racial injustice in our country, educators have been nothing short of heroic. We have shown up for our students and our communities, sometimes putting our own health and safety at risk. Now, maybe more than ever, all educators need and deserve the protections provided by a union. As UArts and other institutions of higher education continue to navigate their response to the crises we face, it’s imperative their workers have a voice in making colleges and universities safe and equitable spaces for everyone who learns and works there.”
AFT President Randi Weingarten said:
“Congratulations to our new members. I am so proud of the tireless organizing that our rank-and-file activists did to make this victory possible. As the country faces unprecedented economic, health, climate and racial justice crises, the protection and voice provided by a union is more important than ever. Working people need living wages; access to affordable, high-quality healthcare; and a pathway to a stable retirement. But too many jobs in higher education continue to be precarious and undervalued—and this has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. UArts faculty toil tirelessly to support and educate the next generation, and now they have a permanent seat at the table to advocate for themselves and their students.”
Laura Frazure, assistant professor and coordinator of sculpture within the Fine Arts Department in the School of Art, said:
“Prior to being hired full time, I was an adjunct professor at UArts and several other institutions for 18 years—at times teaching at five different colleges. I graduated from the Philadelphia College of Art the year that the University of the Arts was created. My experience as a student was transformative and shaped my life. Now working here, I am excited to win a union at UArts to give faculty a meaningful voice in university governance and a central role in defining the culture of the institution. A unionized faculty will help us reestablish a meaningful role in university governance in partnership with university leadership.”
John Woodin, adjunct professor of photography in the School of Art, said:
“I’m a professional artist, freelance photographer and adjunct professor at the University of the Arts. This is my 30th year teaching in the Photography Program. Five years ago, the UArts administration claimed that university-sponsored healthcare violated the Affordable Care Act and discontinued the benefit for adjunct faculty. While serving as the representative for part-time faculty on the Faculty Council, I raised the healthcare issue repeatedly and through the proper channels, but it was like talking to a brick wall. UArts faculty love teaching, we want our students to succeed, and we have issues that will only be addressed if a strong faculty union represents us. Because of this, I look forward to being represented by a strong union at UArts that has the power to negotiate issues that critically affect the safety, health and working conditions of our faculty.”
United Academics of Philadelphia is an AFT metrowide Local and Organizing Project for Higher Education Faculty and Staff. UAP has organized part-time faculty before, with its first bargaining unit at Arcadia University. University of the Arts will be the local’s second bargaining unit and the first time the local has organized full-time faculty at a private university.
UAP President Daniel Pieczkolon said:
“We are so excited to officially welcome the University of the Arts faculty into UAP. Their incredible organizing efforts over the last few years are speaking loudly in the results of this election, and we look forward to the opportunity to have their voices formally recognized so that we can begin creating the teaching conditions they deserve and the learning conditions their students need.”
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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.