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Collective Action by Public Sector Employees

November 27, 2012

A recent story in Inside Higher Ed reported on how one college administration is cutting the number of hours taught by adjunct faculty as a way to avoid having to provide health insurance as mandated by the Affordable Care Act.  It is likely that more administrations will follow suit.

The Colorado AAUP is very concerned about the variety of workplace issues faced by our state’s contingent faculty.  We’ve had some success in addressing them, but they remain a top priority for the organization going forward.  All Colorado faculty–tenured, tenure-track, and adjunct–should also be aware of a 1920 statute stating that employees can submit any workplace dispute to arbitration through the Department of Labor (DOL).   The statute doesn’t explicitly grant rights to collectively bargain, but it does allow an employee group (not necessarily a union) to present a dispute to the DOL. The DOL can arbitrate the dispute or decline to act on it.  If the problem remains unsolved, workers can strike. If unwilling to strike workers can, alternatively, establish a picket line (on a nonteaching day during “nonworking” hours) on public property near the entrance to the institution.  This is legal, and protected by first amendment rights to engage in such activity.

As a way to provide additional resources for Colorado faculty we’ve posted, to the Documents page of this website as well as here, an article that Ray Hogler published in The Colorado Lawyer in January 1993 discussing public sector collective activity.

Update, November 30: Youngstown State joins the list of institutions cutting the number of hours taught by adjuncts.

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