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If Point Park’s faculty strike, don’t expect adjuncts to take their place

“We will encourage our members not to pick up the slack,” adjunct faculty member Damon Di Cicco said.

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More than a year after they began, contract talks between Point Park officials and the university’s unionized full-time faculty remain ultimately fruitless. In response, university officials this week placed an ad seeking temporary faculty to fill the void in the event of a work stoppage, as the Pittsburgh Business Times first reported.

But if push comes to strike, part-time and adjunct faculty members at Point Park represented by the United Steelworkers would be encouraged not to take on additional classes or work.

Damon Di Cicco, recording secretary with USW Local 1088 in Pittsburgh and himself an adjunct faculty member at Point Park, told The Incline he and his colleagues are fully in support of their full-time counterparts at Point Park, who are represented by the Newspaper Guild-CWA.

“We will encourage our members not to pick up the slack if [the full-time faculty] go on strike,” he said. “We don’t want to scab for them,” meaning university officials.

Meanwhile, the university’s decision to place the ad seeking temporary faculty was described to the Business Times by one full-time faculty representative as “heartbreaking.” But school officials insist they’re only contingency planning and remain hopeful that a deal can be reached and a strike avoided.

In an email to The Incline, Lou Corsaro, managing director of marketing and public relations with the university, said officials there have not been notified of any type of planned job action by the faculty members and that, by placing the ad, the administration was only taking “appropriate steps to provide uninterrupted education in the event of any issues that may arise.” His statement continued:

Point Park has not been notified of any type of job action. The University continues to regularly bargain in good faith with the Newspaper Guild representing the full-time faculty. Since we have not reached an agreement on a contract and must ensure we are serving the needs of our students, the University has taken appropriate steps to provide uninterrupted education in the event of any issues that may arise. We are focused on arriving at a final contract with the full-time faculty that will be fair to all and maintain the student focus and academic excellence that are cornerstones of a Point Park education.

According to the university, Point Park had 147 full-time faculty for the 2016-17 school year.

School officials say the first meeting with full-time faculty was held in March of 2016. Contract negotiations began in earnest two months later.

At that point more than a decade had passed since the university’s full-time faculty had first organized. In the years since, similar union pushes have continued to grow on campuses nationwide and continue today at universities like Pitt, where graduate workers and faculty are currently in the midst of their own organizing efforts. The same is true of graduate students at Penn State.

Adjunct or part-time faculty at Point Park University and Robert Morris University have also unionized, in their case under the United Steelworkers, one of a handful of labor groups behind such efforts at campuses around the country.

Di Cicco said under the USW, adjuncts at Point Park and Robert Morris have already successfully bargained union contracts, firsts for both.

Corsaro did not respond Friday to a question about the sticking points holding up a contract deal with Point Park’s full-time faculty. But the university’s student-run newspaper The Globe previously identified compensation, workload and benefits as examples of unresolved issues.

An attempt to reach spokespeople with the union directly representing full-time Point Park faculty was not immediately successful on Friday.