December 07. 2013 11:27PM

UNH lecturers seek to unionize

By Jason Schreiber
Sunday News Correspondent

University of New Hampshire lecturers, from left, Cynthia Pulkkinen, Sarah Hirsch, Emilie Talpin, Adam St. Jean and Nancy Sell display union cards in front of Thompson Hall on the Durham campus. COURTESY 

DURHAM - Lecturers at the University of New Hampshire are attempting to unionize in hopes of getting better pay and more job security.

The full-time contract lecturers want to form a union as a chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and have organized as a group known as the University of New Hampshire Lecturers United AAUP.

In a statement, the group said it has received support from 70 percent of its colleagues from the Durham and Manchester campuses, which exceeds the 30 percent minimum required by the Public Employees Labor Relations Board.

The group took its first step toward unionizing by filing a petition with the PELRB on Thursday seeking certification of a bargaining unit.

If the PELRB reviews the petition and determines there is enough support, lecturers would hold a secret-ballot election early next year to vote on whether to form the union.

If approved, the group would then start negotiating with UNH administrators to draw up a contract for lecturers.

Lecturers aren't paid as much as professors, aren't eligible for tenure and can't join the professors union."We lack a transparent process of evaluation, a standardized process for contract renewals, and fair and transparent grievance policies," said Sarah Hirsch, a lecturer of Spanish.

UNH has hired more than 100 lecturers over the past two years, but there are often no policies in place that define their positions, according to Hirsch.

UNH has about 200 lecturers, most of whom work in the College of Liberal Arts.

University provost Lisa MacFarlane argues a lecturers union isn't needed.

"We believe that UNH has made many gains that benefit lecturers through direct communication and that the involvement of a union or collective bargaining is not necessary," she said in a statement.

MacFarlane added, "We encourage lecturers to understand the pros and cons of union representation and to become educated about the union-organizing and collective-bargaining process. This will allow each lecturer to make an informed vote, should an election be held."

According to the organizing group, lecturers have many of the same qualifications as tenure-track professors, but are paid about 40 percent below the national average for lecturers.

"Transparent, consistent contracts would greatly improve the sense of job security for lecturers and would enhance our ability to teach with excellence. As more lecturers serve UNH, it only makes sense to provide that security," said Adam St. Jean, lecturer in chemical engineering.