GW, union prepare for court battle

GW will face the National Labor Relations Board in a federal hearing in October, after administrators this summer refused to recognize a part-time faculty union on campus.

On July 29, the NLRB filed a complaint against GW on the grounds of unfair labor practices on behalf of part-time professors who narrowly voted to form a union last October. Representatives of the Service Employees International Union Local 500, of which the part-time professors union would be a part, said the board is seeking a preliminary judgment from the court before the Oct. 31 hearing takes place.

“Normally (the NLRB) doesn’t do that unless it’s a pretty solid case,” said Lewie Anderson, director of the SEIU Local 500 representation programs department. “I don’t think for one minute that the University has a legitimate case (to present at the hearing).”

University officials contend that the NLRB’s May 6 ruling that part-time faculty members approved a union by 10 votes in last fall’s vote was flawed. The board’s decision was thought to have capped eight months of discussion between University officials and union supporters over 50 disputed ballots, but administrators are now calling for the inclusion of 30 more faculty members who did not cast ballots in October. It is not publicly known who these faculty members are or how they would vote.

The eligibility of two Law School adjuncts, who were hired by an outside firm to work at GW, prompted University officials to call for the extension of voting rights to more indirectly hired faculty. The two professors were initially excluded from the list of eligible voters because their salaries are not paid by the University, but after a petition, the board decided to include the adjuncts’ ballots. It is not known how they voted.

Based on the NLRB’s ruling, GW officials claim all third-party faculty members, or “supplier” employees, should now be allowed to vote. GW officials have consistently opposed the formation of a union, though they encouraged all professors eligible to vote to cast ballots.

“The (NLRB) certification disenfranchised a materially significant number of eligible voters,” Matt Nehmer, the University’s assistant director of media relations, wrote in an e-mail this week. “The University denied that it was unlawfully refusing to bargain.”

The administrative law judge in next month’s hearing must decide if GW is not following employment regulations by refusing to recognize the union. The judge’s ruling could force GW to begin negotiations with the organized adjuncts, but Anderson said the University might seek to challenge the board’s certification in U.S. courts, allowing for possible judicial review of the October decision.

Union supporters said GW is using delaying tactics to prevent the formation of a collective bargaining group.

“(GW) is just doing it so everyone will become demoralized and give up,” Anderson said.

“The University is spending thousands of dollars of tuition money (in legal fees) to try and stall this for another year,” said music professor Kip Lornell, a leader in the faculty unionization effort.

He added that union supporters are “fixing to get ready” and step up public education efforts for their cause.

“A lot of students and faculty really don’t understand what’s going on,” Lornell said. “We’re going to bring the facts to light.”

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