Point Park faculty pushes for contract by summer
Bargaining began more than a year ago
Thirteen years since full-time faculty at Point Park University voted for union representation, their first-ever contract finally could be within reach this summer.
That is the hope, at least, of faculty union negotiators who say the bulk of the contract has been hashed out over the last year, but thorny economic issues — namely, pay and benefits — remain up for bargaining.
Since bargaining began March 17, 2016, officials from Point Park have held about 30 meetings with the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, which is representing the group of about 140 full-time faculty members at the school. (Disclaimer: The Newspaper Guild, a local chapter of the Communications Workers of America, also represents editorial staff members at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)
“We understand that coming to an agreement for the first time is a long process — you’re basically building a contract from scratch,” said Michael A. Fuoco, president of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh and a Post-Gazette reporter.
Still, talks have been progressing at a “glacial” pace and “we’re still really far apart” on the final issues, he said. The union put the school on notice that it wants the contract to retroactively cover faculty back to last September, Mr. Fuoco added.
Point Park officials declined to comment on the substance of the talks or whether they think a summer contract is feasible.
A written statement provided by Lou Corsaro, a school spokesman, said Point Park is “focused on arriving at a final contract with full-time faculty that will be fair to all and maintain the student focus and academic excellence that makes this university such a special place.
“We will continue to respect that process by confining our comments to the negotiating table,” it read.
A contract at Point Park would mark a significant achievement for organized labor in the realm of higher education in Pittsburgh.
It would come on the heels of the latest development at Duquesne University, which has vowed to continue to challenge its adjunct faculty’s 2012 vote to unionize and join the Adjunct Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers.
Last week, the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C., upheld a ruling by the Pittsburgh regional office that requires the Catholic university to bargain with roughly 125 adjunct faculty who were part of the vote. School president Ken Gormley said he plans to take that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals.
It would also come amid a stalled effort by the United Steelworkers to unionize adjunct faculty at Chatham University. After about a year and a half of organizing potential members, the USW abruptly delayed a vote last year after a group of professors raised concerns.
Reached Tuesday, a representative of the USW had no update on efforts at Chatham.
At Point Park, full-time faculty voted 49-14 in 2004 to unionize — a move that was challenged by the school, which argued professors at private institutions are actually in managerial positions.
The case attracted national attention as it wound its way through the National Labor Relations Board and the U.S. Court of Appeals — with rulings going against the school, and the school appealing those rulings.
The school decided to drop its legal appeals in July 2015 and begin the collective bargaining process.
In November 2015, Point Park agreed to the first-ever contract with part-time, adjunct faculty members who voted in 2014 to join the Adjunct Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers.
In an interview last week, Mr. Fuoco said he now sees contract talks in the final stretch. The two sides had settled many difficult issues, such as tenure, job security, academic freedom and intellectual property rights. The two sides are scheduled to meet again Thursday.