University Professors as Members of the Steelworkers Union? Why Not?

Most of the organizing activity involving university professors has involved the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). That makes sense, since professors are in somewhat of a service profession. But not so for the adjunct faculty members working for Robert Morris University. They recently filed a petition for election with the National Labor Relations Board seeking to be represented by the United Steelworkers Union (USW). According to the pro-union faculty members, they hope the Steelworkers can increase their wages and create a more transparent, fair, and orderly system for assigning courses. I wonder if anyone told the teachers that the Union can only get for them whatever the University agrees to give them?

According to a press release about this organizing activity, the Union said, “We Steelworkers are still working on factory floors, but now we’re also staffing hospitals, practicing law, and teaching college students as adjunct faculty.” To be fair, the dramatic decrease in unionized workforces has forced unions to look outside their core competencies for new members. The United Auto Workers represent casino blackjack dealers, after all.

Matt Austin is a lawyer based in the Columbus, Ohio office of Roetzel & Andress, LPA who limits his practice to representing employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can call Matt at (614) 723-2010 or email him at