Adjunct professors will conduct a vote this fall to decide whether to form a union of part-time GW professors.
The decision comes after adjuncts said they would put off efforts to unionize until next year due to a lack of support among part-time professors. Federal labor law stipulates that a group must have the backing of at least 30 percent of their proposed bargaining unit to create a union.
The adjuncts’ third petition to the National Labor Relations Board was filed on behalf of the 1,030 adjunct professors teaching classes this past spring. The past two petitions, which represented a much greater number of adjunct professors that taught in the fall or spring, failed to garner enough support to create a union.
“We realized we could give it one more go,” said Anne McLeer, an adjunct professor of women’s studies and leader of the union movement. “We sat down and thought if there was anything we hadn’t tried, and the one thing we hadn’t done was file just for the spring semester.”
Although organizers only needed the support of spring professors to force a vote, the election – which will be conducted through mail ballot from October 4-19 – will be open to all part-time faculty who have taught a GW class within the last two academic years, excluding summer sessions. Teaching assistants and employees of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences are excluded from the election, as are faculty based in facilities more than 30 miles from the Foggy Bottom campus.
The University is compiling a list of adjuncts eligible to vote and will submit it by Sept. 20. Officials issued a statement May 4 encouraging “all eligible part-time faculty to exercise their right to vote on this important matter for the University and the part-time faculty.”
Adjuncts have been fighting to form a union for years as a way to secure better salaries and more extensive benefits. Part-time professors typically earn between $2,500 and $5,000 per course taught, said one adjunct who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
University officials said that while they would rather work with its professors without going through a third party, they encourage all adjuncts to vote in the October election.
“The University encourages all eligible part-time faculty to exercise their right to vote on this important matter for the University and the part-time faculty,” wrote Matt Nehmer, assistant director of Media Relations, in a press release last week.
But McLeer said she envisions a tough battle with the University, which she expects will try to discourage faculty to vote for unionization.
“A lot of times what the employer will do is promise to do better if given a second chance,” she said. “They’ll try to make it seem like it’s in (the employees’) interests to talk to them instead of their coworkers.”
While McLeer said the level of support for the movement was hard to gauge, she expressed confidence that the results of an election would result in unionization.
“I’m very confident,” she said. “It’s hard to tell just how invested some people may be at this point, but we think there are enough people who care strongly about this that they’ll come out and vote for a union.”
Jack Mendelsohn, an adjunct professor in the Elliott School of International Affairs, said he supports the actions taken to create a union.
“I don’t depend on GW for a living, but those who are dependent on the University need to have more power over their position,” Mendelsohn said. “I don’t think the salary and benefit scales for part-time professors are really adequate or even that fair.”