Labor board hears union dispute

The result of an October vote to form a part-time faculty union at GW remains in the hands of the National Labor Relations Board, which will determine the validity of several disputed ballots. A four-day hearing took place between Monday and Thursday of last week to sort out remaining conflicts with the ballots.

During the hearing, the Service Employees International Union Local 500 and the University presented more than 40 pieces of evidence and called more than 20 witnesses to testify, GW Media Relations director Tracy Schario said. Both sides now have until Feb. 10 to file briefs to the NLRB stating their final positions.

The board’s final decision will conclude a nearly three-year-long campaign by GW part-time professors to establish a union that they believe will secure them better pay and benefits. The University has consistently opposed the movement, arguing that a union would interfere with the ability to negotiate salaries and distribute workloads.

In October 2004, all part-time faculty who had taught at least one course in two of the last four semesters voted to decide whether to be represented by the SEIU. After an initial tally on Oct. 22, the counted votes favored unionization 328 to 316. However, the SEIU and NLRB questioned the eligibility and timeliness of 50 of the 694 submitted ballots.

Union organizers said some ballots were cast after the Oct. 19 deadline or by ineligible voters, such as full-time faculty or University administrators.

The ballots were left sealed as union organizers and the University stated their positions on each contested ballot. Since then, the two sides have filed competing petitions concerning whether each disputed ballot should be counted.

The SEIU decided to file formal challenges against just 15 of the ballots. The University and the SEIU agreed to discard 22 ballots that were either submitted after the deadline or by ineligible voters.

Lead union organizer Anne McLeer, an adjunct professor of women’s studies, said the two sides agreed to include 10 of the 50 disputed ballots in the final count without formal contest. No envelopes have been opened since the October tally, and organizers continue to hold an official 12-vote lead.

Once the University and union organizers submit their final briefs, the administrative law judge presiding over the hearing will consider all evidence and make a set of recommendations to the NLRB concerning each challenged ballot. The University and SEIU may then follow up with exceptions to those recommendations.

The whole matter will ultimately be put before the NLRB for a final resolution. Once the status of every ballot has been determined, the board will re-tally the vote and declare a final winner.

Neither party could guess when a final decision might be reached. Though the election has dragged out for months, Schario said it is not unusual for such matters to be so prolonged and the University would exercise patience in resolving the dispute.

“It’s fairly common when you’re dealing with these types of issues that there’s a fairly lengthy deliberation process,” Schario said. “We can’t really predict how long it will take.”

Union organizers expressed frustration over the way the election has played out, fearing the dispute could go on for months.

“What worries me is that this is taking a really long time,” McLeer said. “It will be a month before the briefs will be filed, then we wait on a decision, and then GW can still file appeals … but I guess that’s the process.”

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