HACC Faculty vote to unionize

What everyone needs to know about the historic decision

Jess Staley, Features Editor

HACC is the last community college in Pennsylvania to be Unionized. But that has changed thanks to a union vote, just certified today.

Results show 335 of the 533 who voted marked ‘yes’ to union representation.

Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board sent election ballots to 828 faculty members who were on the voter eligibility list. HACC administration challenged eligibility of 110 faculty, reducing the number of eligible voters to 718, according to a Hawk Faculty United press release.

Faculty have reported major instabilities in recent years without shared governance as well as lower pay – especially adjunct professors – and other issues.

Amy Winthrow, HACC English professor, started as an adjunct professor in 2004 at the Harrisburg campus. In 2006, she received a full-time position. 

Withrow says she first became interested with the topic of the union when a research committee was established in May 2019. Faculty organization leadership wanted to explore HACC’s union history, pain points, and to address shared governance.

“I signed up because I didn’t know much about it. I was undecided about if unionization was the correct approach for HACC,” said Winthrow.

A variety of positions surround the union discussion, some pro, some against, and some unsure. Winthrow says someone may be opposed to the union because of it not being a legally binding contract.

“There is flexibility for policies, if a policy needs to be changed, it can be canceled easily.” says Winthrow.

Full-time and adjunct faculty have different roles in the system. Those who are full-time  teach contractually with a minimum of 15 credits in the fall and spring semesters. Their position requires more than just teaching; they are advisors as well; they are tasked  with professional development and curricular development to guarantee programs are up to date. 

On the other hand, adjuncts have no minimum amount of credits, there are no expectations beyond teaching, and no involvement in curriculum updates or development. Contracts are on a semester basis. If HACC becomes unionized, full-time and adjunct faculty will be united together in many categories

One issue at play is the instability faculty have brought to light: One being their lack of voice in choices union organizers say that matter most, including work conditions, salary, benefits, classroom equipment and more. Administration has complete authority: although staff can have an input in decisions, the president’s cabinet has the vote. 

Changes have been made in past years that have needed to be backtracked and fixed. Staff say they do not always understand what the policies and expectations are, as they are always changing,

“A legally binding contract makes it clear what the expectations are,” says Winthrow. 

Adapting to changes has taken away from what Winthrow cares about most, “… We come to a community college because we love to teach. One of the joys is the focus on teaching and helping students transition to the next part of their life.”

HACC Faculty United is the committee to which Withrow belongs as part of the union organizing group. Through the use of weekly email updates, their website Hawk Faculty Unite, and Facebook and Twitter, their goal is to be transparent with their mission statement and provide the facts. They also communicate one on one with faculty.

The ballots for HACC’s union vote were due by 5 p.m.  April 7. The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board administered the count Friday morning, April 8, reporting the results, which were certified early this week.

For more information, see HACC Newsroom .