More than six weeks after a vote to form a union of part-time faculty at GW, the results of the election remain unknown as organizers and the University haggle over a handful of disputed ballots.
In October, part-time faculty who had taught at least one course in two of the last four semesters cast ballots by mail to determine if the University would recognize a union of part-time professors. The votes were first counted on Oct. 22.
Adjuncts had been working with the Service Employees International Union Local 500 toward unionization for more than three years to secure higher salaries and increased benefits, finally forcing the issue to a vote this fall. The University has consistently opposed the effort, arguing that unionization would place unnecessary roadblocks in the school’s negotiations with faculty. A union, some officials said, would also hurt students because it would create hiring and scheduling problems.
An initial tally of the votes two months ago revealed that of the more than 600 ballots cast, 328 were in favor of unionization while 316 were against, giving organizers a slim 12-vote lead. However, finalization of the results was held up while the National Labor Relations Board examined around 50 disputed, unopened ballots. About 1,600 people comprise GW’s part-time faculty staff.
Resolution of the matter has been stalled ever since as the two sides have issued a series of challenges to the uncounted ballots. Since the first count in October, the labor board has discarded five of the ballots after it determined they were cast by ineligible voters, said Anne McLeer, an adjunct professor of women’s studies and the lead union organizer.
Of the roughly 45 remaining unopened ballots, 15 are being challenged by the University on the grounds that they were submitted after the deadline. Officials are also contesting another 15 votes that they said were cast by individuals not on the list of eligible voters but who managed to obtain a ballot regardless.
In addition, union organizers are challenging 14 ballots on claims of voter ineligibility. The organizers said the ballots were cast by University administrators who, while technically on the list of qualified voters, should not be allowed to represent the faculty.
Though the process has been slow, pro-union adjuncts said they are not nervous about the delays and are confident they will emerge with a narrow margin of victory. The labor board will hold a hearing sometime in December or January to decide whether part-time faculty can form a union.
“I think we have it, to be honest,” McLeer said. “I think no matter what happens we’re going to keep our lead. I think this is what they suspect as well, and that’s why they’re challenging.”
McLeer said the University’s challenges are intended to put off contract negotiations as long as possible.
“That strategy delays us getting a contract … so we can’t really go anywhere. It’s like being stuck in a snowstorm,” McLeer said.
University officials said they are “optimistic that the process will be followed accordingly and we’ll know the outcome when we have an outcome.”
Tracy Schario, GW’s media relations director, said, “We trust that the National Labor Relations Board will follow its policies and procedures, and until they decide on something it’s really hard to have any insight into it. ”