Left homeless after 25 years of teaching in Pennsylvania

The email below is from Joshua Zelesnick, a CREDO activist in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Joshua started a petition on CREDO Mobilize, where activists can launch their own campaigns for progressive change. Will you help Joshua pressure administrators at Duquesne University to recognize part-time faculty members' right to organize for a fair and living wage and affordable access to healthcare by signing his petition and sharing it with your friends and family?

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Tell Duquesne University: Part-time faculty deserve a fair and living wage.

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Dear 5849376,

Last month, my friend and colleague, Margaret Mary Vojtko--an adjunct French professor at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh for 25 years--died at the age of 83 from a heart attack. At the time of her death she was homeless and impoverished. The school had refused to pay her a fair wage over the course of her career and fired her without any due process despite a recent peer evaluation that proclaimed she was a "meticulous teacher."

Margaret is a symbol for why faculty need to organize for a fair and living wage, and why schools like Duquesne need to recognize our right to do so. That's why I started my own campaign on CREDOMobilize.com, which allows activists to start their own petitions. My petition, which is to Duquesne University President Charles J. Dougherty, the board of directors, and the Duquesne University Corporation, says the following:

We ask that you to stop refusing to recognize your part-time faculty's democratically elected union, and bargain a fair contract in good faith with the Adjunct Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers. Part-time faculty deserve a fair and living wage, access to affordable healthcare, and secure contracts.

Tell Duquesne University's administration to respect part-time faculty like Margaret.

I refuse to allow Margaret's death to be in vain. She gave 25 years of teaching excellence to Duquesne University and—with no severance, no way to pay her medical bills, and no real income—the university just let her go. Her story is a tragedy that could have been averted.

Margaret strongly supported organizing a union to represent adjunct professors--professors who are denied full-time employment and access to benefits, but teach many of the same classes as tenured professors. She knew that over 50% of adjuncts at Duquesne, and at least 70% nationwide, are poorly paid. Adjunct professors can make $14,000 a year at Duquesne, while students pay upward of $30,000 a year to attend the school. President Dougherty, however, makes over $700,000 a year. Despite this disparity, Duquesne refuses to recognize or bargain with a democratically elected union by claiming a "religious exemption" appeal.

Recently, an op-ed featuring Margaret's story and the struggle facing adjuncts like her received national attention. With the spotlight on Duquesne, we can continue building pressure on the administration to finally recognize part-time professors' right to organize by speaking out through this petition.

In the midst of a nationwide groundswell of workers organizing for fair wages and better treatment at fast-food restaurants, retail stores, and schools, now is the perfect time to honor Margaret and set an example for adjuncts organizing across the country by showing that they too will have our support by signing my petition.

Will you join me and add your name to my petition to Duquesne University administrators to demand they recognize part-time faculty members' right to organize for a fair and living wage and access to affordable healthcare?

Thank you for your support.

Joshua Zelesnick

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CREDO Mobilize helps activists like you make progressive change and fight regressive policies by creating online petitions. Click here to start a petition today.

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