Part-time faculty reach tentative contract agreement

Union is optimistic about new deal

Written By Dara Collins, Editor-in-Chief

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Adjunct faculty members at Point Park University reached a tentative contract agreement with the institution last Friday, according to a press release from the United Steelworkers (USW).

Point Park University’s managing director of marketing and public relations, Lou Corsaro, released a statement on behalf of the university:

“Point Park University has always been proud of its part-time faculty, and the role they will play in educating our students through their expert and practical knowledge. The tentative contract agreement is reflective of their importance in a flourishing academic community.”

According to the 2019 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, the university employed 396 part-time faculty members as of Fall 2018.

“I think it’s a really good agreement,” Damon DiCicco said in a phone interview. DiCicco is the president of Local 1088 and an adjunct faculty member in the School of Communication.

“It includes a number of improvements that I think are going to make life better for our members including a significant raise, stronger guarantees about protecting ownership of the class materials that we produce, hopefully some more stability in the appointment process and a sick day, so these are all significant gains for us,” DiCicco said.

Upon approval from the members of USW 1088, the three-year contract would include wage increases every semester through Spring 2022 and other contractual improvements sought after by the faculty, according to the release.

“You never get everything that you wanted when you go to the bargaining table, but I think this agreement is a good deal for everyone, and it builds significantly on our first agreement from three years ago, so I’m happy with it,” DiCicco said.

The university and adjunct faculty members reached their first contract agreement in June 2016 following 10 months of negotiation. That contract expired Aug. 19 of this year.

“A lot of what was in the first [agreement] was working fairly well, so we left a lot of it alone, frankly,” DiCicco said. “The big changes I think are in the appointment process. Prior to this agreement, the university had total discretion about what classes were offered to who, but now they’re going to have to actually survey the adjunct faculty in advance and actually find out when people are available to teach and what classes they want to teach before making those assignments, so I think that’s going to be really positive.”

DiCicco mentioned more specific improvements from the new agreement.

“The intellectual property protections that are going to ensure that we own our class materials and could go teach the class at another university if we wanted to is also really important,” DiCicco said.

The press release stated informational meetings will be held by faculty members in the coming weeks, but DiCicco said the informational meetings may not be likely.

“Informational meetings are sort of typical in most unions, but, again, because our members aren’t ever all present at the same time, I’m not sure how many of those we’ll have,” DiCicco said.

Ratification votes will still be in full motion regardless of the status of meetings.

“If it’s not approved, hypothetically, any topic that we’ve negotiated could be reopened at the bargaining table, but I think it’s very likely that this agreement will be approved,” DiCicco said. “The approval process is called the ratification vote, and some unions do that in person, but we do it by mail because there isn’t really a day that all the adjuncts are on campus.”

DiCicco explained the approval process that will take place.

“What we will be doing later this week is mailing out ballots along with a summary of all the changes that we bargained,” DiCicco said. “Those ballots should hopefully come back in next week, and we can sign this agreement.”

In the press release, DiCicco expressed gratitude on behalf of the adjunct faculty to the students and families of Point Park as well as the full-time faculty’s support.

This agreement came after a public demonstration on Aug. 19, one of the university’s move-in days, when faculty members distributed leaflets to students and their families on campus.

A horizontal green box in the center of the page claimed that a majority of tuition money wasn’t going to the people who teach. The leaflets also included a link to sign a petition to show support for adjunct faculty.

“This contract represents a victory for the faculty, but more importantly for quality education at Point Park,” Local 1088 Vice President Sharon Brady said in the press release. “Faculty working conditions have a direct impact on students’ learning conditions, so this agreement represents a step forward for everyone involved.”

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