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Labor board grants election for adjuncts to join union

Temple Association of University Professionals could double in size if adjuncts vote to join.

Nine months after a portion of the university’s adjunct professors filed authorization cards with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, the state authority has granted an election for part-timers to join the union which currently represents Temple’s full-time faculty.

Adjunct professors from the non-professional schools — who number about 1,300, a university spokesman said — could be represented by the Temple Association of University Professionals if a majority of the turnout votes “yes” in the election.

No date had been set for the election as of Thursday, though TAUP President Art Hochner said it was possible it could be held late in 2015. In a Tuesday ruling that allowed the election to proceed, PLRB Hearing Examiner John Pozniak also gave the university 10 days to submit to the Commonwealth the names and addresses of all adjuncts eligible to join TAUP.

Only adjuncts can vote in the election.

Hochner, an associate professor of human resources management, said the union would roughly double in size if adjuncts join.

“I’m really happy that adjuncts will find a voice,” Hochner said Thursday.

“We’re all colleagues and we do many of the same things. … And if we are not in one large group, we can always be used against each other.”

The decision drew swift response from Provost Hai-Lung Dai in an email to faculty and staff Tuesday.

It is unwise for TAUP to be in a position to favor the interests of one group over another,” Dai wrote. “Adjunct and full-time faculty are similar in some ways, but there are also important differences in responsibility and priority over tenure, workload, pay and contracts. For these reasons, merging adjunct faculty into TAUP does not make sense for full-time or adjunct faculty.”

Dai also directed staff to a page touting negotiations with adjuncts made without union involvement.

The main argument between the university and the union was whether adjunct and full-time faculty at Temple possess what state labor laws call “an identifiable community of interest”; in other words, if the roles of full- and part-time faculty were similar enough to warrant representation by the same union. The university also disputed the involvement of United Academics of Philadelphia — a higher-education wing of the American Federation of Teachers — and said some adjuncts who signed authorization cards may have signed them in error.

Temple also urged the state board to follow a precedent it set in 1978 when it ruled part-time faculty at the Community College of Philadelphia were not in league with full-time faculty and could not receive the same benefits.

Pozniak ruled that similarities between Temple’s full- and part-time faculty warranted inclusion in the same union, and said criticism of UAP’s involvement and the authorization cards was “without merit.” In the CCP case, he said, the part-time faculty had little involvement in curriculum design, but adjuncts at Temple design courses and write syllabi.

The university can appeal the PLRB’s decision before the election is held, a university spokesman said. Temple has not yet decided if it will appeal the decision.

TAUP does not represent faculty from the university’s professional schools of law, medicine, dentistry and podiatric medicine. Adjuncts in those schools will not be able to join TAUP.

Joe Brandt can be reached at jbrandt@temple.edu or on Twitter @JBrandt_TU.

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