Demands of faculty union reasonable, fair


Written By Margaret Davis

Since 2004, Point Park University has been at war with its own professors in a legal battle over the creation of a new union contract. Citing the 1980 Supreme Court case National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) v. Yeshiva University, the university stalled negotiations because it considered the teaching staff to be “managerial employees” who were therefore “ineligible for unionization.”

In 2015, after 12 years, Point Park finally dropped its appeals and agreed to open talks with the faculty, who are represented by the Newspaper Guild/Communications Workers of America. However, 140 of our full-time professors are still working without a contract, and progress has been very, very slow.

I was 10 years old when the legal battle began. Twelve years is a long time.

Stalling the contract negotiations process means the university will have to pay less in the meantime. Of course, Point Park has not disclosed how much of our tuition money it has spent on legal fees.

But it’s too expensive to give their teaching staff benefits and a fair wage, or install air conditioning in Lawrence Hall, or fill the pool, or replace the board games in the student lounge with some that actually have all of the pieces.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that private colleges are, above everything else, for-profit businesses.

Compared to other private universities in urban areas, Point Park pays its faculty about 17 percent below average, but pays administration about 17 percent above average, according to union representatives.

I guess now we know where our tuition money has been going.

Not only are the faculty fighting for pensions, benefits and better wages, they are also fighting for academic freedom within the classroom. They want to regain control of what they can and can’t teach without looking over their shoulder worried that what they say in the classroom could get them in trouble. They want to regain control of not only how they are treated as staff members, but how students are treated as well. They want to regain control of how long their contracts are, how many classes they teach in a semester and how many adjunct and part-time professors are employed at the university. They want to regain control of their careers and their lives’ work.

This seems reasonable, especially when considering that some full-time faculty members earn less than $50,000 a year. This seems reasonable, when “full-time” for a teacher often means more than 40 hours a week. This seems reasonable when administrations at private universities across the country have gradually gained more and more control over academic freedom, or, in many cases, academic restriction.

It seems reasonable to ensure that when a professor dedicates decades of his or her life to an institution, they will have a secure retirement. It seems reasonable to pay a full-time faculty member at least as much as, say, the general manager of the Taco Bell I worked at in high school.

It seems reasonable to treat all workers with respect and dignity. It does not seem reasonable to engage them in a legal battle and deny them collective bargaining rights for more than a decade. It does not seem reasonable for a university to behave more like a corporation than an academic institution.

It is up to us, as students who will spend much of our lives in debt to pay for our time here, to show our support for our professors and to remind Point Park University: without teachers, a school is just another empty building.