WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today announced that Johanna Slivinske, a Youngstown State University professor, will attend the White House Worker Voice Summit. The Worker Voice Summit, convened by the White House and U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), will bring together workers, labor leaders, advocates, and employers to discuss the importance of workers’ voices in boosting our middle class. Brown nominated Slivinske to attend today’s event and share her experience in organizing.
“Unions have given workers the opportunity to advocate for themselves when they aren’t getting a fair shake,” said Brown. “Johanna’s efforts at YSU are an example of the strength that comes with organizing to advance a shared goal of improving your wages and workplace. This summit is a celebration of people like Johanna who’ve changed the course for their coworkers or an entire industry. Her efforts will not only benefit her fellow faculty, but also the students they teach.”
“I am so honored to be invited to the Worker Voice Summit at the White House,” said Slivinske. It’s vitally important for adjunct faculty and all workers to have a voice in their workplace. When workers do well, families and children prosper. Union wages improve the lives of children and families and strengthen the middle class. I am very hopeful for positive change at YSU and throughout the country. And we are beginning to see that change. Our efforts will benefit students, adjunct faculty, and the administration.”
The Worker Voice Summit, organized by the White House, will provide an opportunity for advocates, academics, policymakers, and workers to engage in conversations about how to positively impact the workplace. The White House invited a select number of workers to attend the Summit to share their experience in making improvements in the workplace. The Summit will include a town hall discussion with President Barack Obama.
Johanna Slivinske has a master’s in social work and has been an adjunct faculty instructor in the Department of Social Work at Youngstown State University (YSU) for more than 11 years. Over the past year, Slivinske has developed a relationship with staff members from United Steelworkers (USW) who have successfully organized adjunct faculty members at two universities. Ms. Slivinske has convened regular meetings with adjunct instructors from across colleges and disciplines to share their concerns. The group has developed strategies on how to effectively message their goals, distributed materials explaining their campaign, and recruited more adjunct instructors to have their voices heard. Slivinske hopes to achieve successful unionization to make positive changes to the working environments of adjunct faculty.
During Slivinske’s time at YSU, adjunct instructors have become the majority (60%) of the faculty at YSU. Despite teaching the majority of courses, adjunct faculty are excluded from university governance processes or bodies and are not recognized or represented by a union. Adjunct faculty at Youngstown State have gone without a raise for 23 years. At YSU, one of the least expensive state universities in Ohio, tuition has increased consistently over the years where wages have not. Many adjunct instructors teach at multiple universities while still earning wages well below the Federal Poverty Threshold. Slivinske is working to make sure adjunct faculty have fair representation and can access the middle class.