Kip Lornell and Jim Levy: Lehman’s mistakes

Last semester the National Labor Relations Board certified that SEIU Local 500 won the election to bargain collectively on behalf of the University’s approximately 1,200 part-time faculty. Now the University refuses to bargain with us because, as Vice President Donald Lehman contends in a September 1, 2005 letter addressed to the part-time faculty, “The University believes that this certification is flawed because it does not result from an election that provided all eligible voters with a full and fair opportunity to vote.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. As you will see, Lehman’s letter contains five critical “factual” errors as well as misleading statements:

The letter states that “among its decisions, the NLRB concluded that two votes should not be counted that were cast by individuals not employed by the University.”

It would be useful if Dr. Lehman more closely read the “Report on Challenges” written by NLRB Administrative Law Judge William Kocol and issued on March 25, 2005. Of the two individuals referred to by Lehman, Judge Kocol wrote that “I conclude that (these two faculty members) are employees and their ballots should be counted.” Lehman continues “these individuals were teaching because their employers had agreements with the University to supply teaching services.”

Once again, Dr. Lehman misstates Judge Kocol’s decision. Aside from the fact that the University conceded “that (they) were not free to send whomever it wanted to teach the courses; the University expected that the teachers would be (these two faculty members).” Judge Kocol further wrote that, aside from a technical issue related to taxes, “they continued to be employees of the University just like other admitted eligible voters.”

The letter contends that “the NLRB’s post-election decision to include the votes of the two ‘suppliers’ means that the other 30 non-employee teachers never had a full and fair opportunity to cast their ballots for or against representation by Local 500 … the University’s position is that the NLRB’s decisions means that all other similarly situated part-time faculty should be allowed cast ballots.”

This is the core of the University’s specious argument and it’s utterly untrue.

Based on a list supplied by the University, the NLRB sent out ballots to over 1,000 eligible part-time faculty. Knowing that not everyone who was eligible would receive a ballot (for example, people have moved and not provided a proper forwarding address), the NLRB was ready to send out ballots to anyone who requested one. Both GW and SEIU repeatedly urged eligible part-time faculty to vote and also supplied information on how to obtain a ballot from the NLRB if one was not sent to them. Over a dozen people took them up on this offer, some of whom were deemed eligible, while others were not. These “30 non-employee teachers” had the same opportunity to cast ballots. However, for unknown reasons, they did not pursue the opportunity presented to them. Had they done so, then the NLRB could have ruled on their eligibility.

Lehman argues that it is fiction that “the NLRB has found GW guilty of committing an unfair labor practice.”

The truth is that GW is violating federal labor law in refusing to negotiate. The University is attempting to characterize these stalling tactics as a legitimate appeals process. It isn’t. The NLRB has already found that a majority of the part-time faculty voted to have SEIU Local 500 represent them in collective bargaining. They have further ruled that the University is breaking the law by not recognizing this lawful process. The NLRB is simply seeking an enforcement order, by way of a summary judgment against the University, which will require GW to adhere to the outcome of the democratic election and engage in collective bargaining with the part-time faculty.

So much for the “facts” presented by Vice President Lehman. His arguments might sound reasonable on the surface, but they crumble under the bright light of truth. The fact is that the University needs to adhere to the law and sit down with representatives of the part-time faculty and Local 500 representatives. Until they do so, they will continue to be in violation of federal law.

-The writers are both part-time professors of music and supporters of the part-time faculty unionization effort.

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