Full-time staff and P-Fac disagree on union inclusion


Lou Foglia

Tanya Harasym and Clint Vaupel, full-time staff members who teach, stand in support of about 55 others seeking representation from P-Fac.

By Campus Reporter

Full-time staff members who teach at the college are calling for representation by Columbia’s part-time faculty union but are facing pushback from members of the adjunct union’s steering committee, according to Tanya Harasym, operations coordinator of the Learning Studio and an adjunct professor in the Humanities, History & Social Sciences Department.

The group of about 55 full-time staff members who teach part-time at the college emailed P-Fac members Nov. 9, raising concerns about class availability and expressing their beliefs that staff who teach deserve representation from P-Fac because they perform part-time faculty duties separate from their full-time staff member jobs. According to Harasym, P-Fac’s leadership rejected their attempts to join the union.

According to Michael Persoon, P-Fac’s attorney at Despres, Schwartz & Geoghegan, Ltd., staff who teach have been excluded from P-Fac since its original election in 1998. P-Fac’s recognition clause in the union’s contract  states that the unit excludes “all full-time staff members.” 

Additionally, P-Fac’s new contract, ratified in 2013, included the union’s collective bargaining agreement with the college, which guaranteed courses would be assigned to adjunct faculty members before being assigned to

staff members.

However, the National Labor Relations Board ruled in the summer of 2015 “It is determined that there is no question for [staff who teach]…P-Fac is their exclusive collective bargaining representative” in matters regarding teaching. 

Persoon said staff who teach are not part of the bargaining unit because there was no factual evidence to prove they should be, adding that the only thing the NLRB’s ruling did was dismiss a petition filed by the staff who teach that sought not to join P-Fac but start a competing union.

Persoon said P-Fac is the exclusive representative for all part-time faculty and under the federal labor law, there can only be one majority exclusive representative for any bargaining unit at a college. To be allowed into the bargaining unit, staff who teach much show a shared community of interest with the unit, he said.

“Usually the way you get any type of judicial or administrative ruling is there is the law and there is the facts, and you create a factual record and apply the law to that,” Persoon said. “In this case, there is absolutely no factual record presented to anyone who could decide this.”

After the NLRB ruling, 55 full-time staff members sent membership forms to P-Fac and recently heard back from P-Fac’s lawyers that they cannot join the union, Harasym said. She said P-Fac interpreted the ruling as the staff’s petition to create a competing union, which she said they were never trying to do.

“We [just want to] stay in the classrooms so we can keep engaging with students [and] keep the extra income on top of it,” Harasym said. “Because like many P-Fac members, we are teachers with day jobs, and we teach around our day jobs.”

Persoon said allowing staff to join the union would cause many issues and concerns, including staff holding supervisory duties, having different interests than adjuncts and already having full-time employee benefits, which makes it hard to effectively bargain as a cohesive union.

Clint Vaupel, the film equipment center technician and an adjunct professor in the Cinema Art + Science Department, said many full-time staff members do not work a typical 9–5 shift, allowing them time to teach part-time during the day or night.

“It is baffling to me why you would try to stop dedicated people from joining your union,” Vaupel said. 

A letter of response posted to P-Fac’s website said the union has tried to reach solidarity with full-time staff members through the Illinois Education Association and United Staff of Columbia College, but all their attempts have been “rebuffed.” 

The college has remained neutral on the subject because no argument is final, Harasym said, adding that staff who teach cannot speak with the college because the college considers staff who teach P-Fac.

“It just blows your mind,” Vaupel said. “[They] are leaving us nowhere to go.”

A group of the staff who teach filed a grievance against Columbia this month because the college refused to include staff who teach as members of the P-Fac unit or honor past class credits, despite the NLRB ruling. 

Harasym said many times staff members who teach are being portrayed as the reason for the decrease in classes and are accused of being “moonlighters.”

“We are the ones losing classes in this scenario,”Harasym said. 

P-Fac said in the union’s letter of response that it will continue to foster a community of solidarity and face the college’s “cooperate takeover” as one with staff members.

 “We are basically cutting our legs off trying to work [something out],” Vaupel said.

Diana Vallera, an adjunct professor in the Photography Department and president of P-Fac, and Nancy Traver, an adjunct professor in the Communication and Media Innovation Department and P-Fac publicity chair both declined to comment.