In Pittsburgh’s New Economy, Organized Labor Reorganizes in Unconventional Ways

Organizers Robin Sowards and Clint Benjamin at USW headquarters in downtown Pittsburgh, two blocks away from the campus of Point Park University. PPU adjunct faculty are voting this month on whether to join the Steelworkers. Credit Josh Raulerson / 90.5 WESA

Steelworkers organizing Professors

By Josh Raulerson

Beaver County Blue via NPR Pittsburgh

Like any English professor, Clint Benjamin spends a lot of his time grading papers.

“There’s a mountain – a teetering Matterhorn of papers at the end of the weekend, or during the week,” Benjamin said. “You’ve just gotta get through them.”

By his own estimate, Benjamin spends 30 to 40 hours a week on grading alone. He also has to attend meetings, answer emails, keep office hours, and commute between the Community College of Allegheny County and Duquesne University campuses, where in a typical week he prepares and teaches five sections’ of English and writing classes.

For his troubles, Benjamin earns between $25,000 and $30,000 a year and no benefits – if he’s lucky enough to get the maximum number of appointments each institution offers. As a contingent employee, Benjamin is compensated at a fraction of what his similarly credentialed tenured and tenure-track colleagues earn. (Adjunct faculty normally hold a terminal degree in their field: typically a PhD or, in Benjamin’s case, an MFA.)

Benjamin recently took on a third job as an organizer with the United Steelworkers’ Adjunct Faculty Association, which recently led a successful effort to organize part-time faculty at Duquesne.

The campaign drew national attention last year, when the death of 83-year-old adjunct professor Margaret Mary Vojtko became a cause célèbre for the higher-ed labor movement. Vojtko was broke and facing homelessness when she died shortly after being let go by Duquesne, her employer of 25 years.

Many adjuncts, like Benjamin, saw in Vojtko’s story a glimpse of their own possible future – and that of their profession.

"I do love what I’m doing, but that’s how the administration gets us," he said. “It’s a crisis.”

Continue reading In Pittsburgh’s New Economy, Organized Labor Reorganizes in Unconventional Ways

Ambridge Green Energy Fair June 28th





The FUTURE of Renewable Energy is NOW


German_roofsBeaver, PA, June 10, 2014 – June is “bustin’ out all over“ —  with renewable energy on full display, just as it will be June 28 at the Clean and Green Energy Fair in Ambridge, PA.

On the last Saturday in June, Beaver County will celebrate the power of solar, wind and geothermal energies – not for somewhere over the rainbow, but for here and now – with energy efficiency and conservation strategies sharing the spotlight.

The Clean and Green Energy Fair will showcase vendors and organizations engaged in creating sustainable energy for everyday life. The Fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Rt. 65 Farmer’s Market parking lot of Saint Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church, 624 Park Road in Ambridge.

Now is the time for a new look at fossil-fuel alternatives in our homes and communities. As Tom Schuster, senior Pennsylvania representative of the Sierra Club said, “By moving to 100 percent clean energy sources, we’ll create tens of thousands of American jobs and billions of dollars in new investment.”

Randy Francisco, Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania Organizing Representative for the Greater Pittsburgh area, will speak on using Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, the EPA’s Carbon Standard Rule and legislation to grow renewable energy and resulting jobs. Other speakers will address geothermal and solar energy home resources.

solar installationEveryone is invited to explore the rise of renewable energy and the differences it can make. The Clean and Green Energy Fair will feature free solar snow cones, children’s activities, and – thanks to a donation by Ted Popovich, board of directors’ member of Allegheny County’s Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) – an iPad raffle.

Popovich donated the iPad to draw local people to Beaver County’s first-ever renewables energy fair. For sponsors Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Committee and Three Rivers Community Foundation, a strong showing could turn this “first” into a “historic first” that — with or without the chance to win an iPad — is renewable every  June.


Date: Saturday, June 28 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Location: Farmer’s Market Parking Lot (on Rt. 65) of Saint Mary’s Byzantine Catholic church, 624 Park Road, Ambridge, PA 15003

Cost: The fair is free and open to the public. Parking is also free.

Speakers: Randy Francisco, Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania Organizing Representative for the Greater Pittsburgh area.

Six Arrested in Philly Protest at Corbett, Christie Campaign Stop

Teachers, Parents and Students Spotlight School Cuts

By Allison Steele and Julia Terruso
Beaver County Blue via Philly Inquirer

June 10, 2014 – As many as 1,000 protesters, many angry about school funding, blocked traffic and waved signs in Center City on Monday afternoon, hoping to disrupt or at least deflect attention from a fund-raising stop by Govs. Corbett and Christie.

"Our members are here because they’re being mistreated," said Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

Six people were arrested for obstructing the highway – a summary offense – after sitting down on 17th Street. Police did not use handcuffs as they led them away.

The names of those arrested were not available Monday night, but a statement from the coalition group Fight for Philly identified them as "parents, activists, and retired teachers."

The two Republican governors were scheduled to appear Monday evening at a private fund-raiser hosted by the Republican Governors Association. The association did not release details of the event, including its location.

Continue reading Six Arrested in Philly Protest at Corbett, Christie Campaign Stop