GW and part-time faculty union supporters were set to square off this week at a hearing where a labor board would rule on GW’s refusal to bargain with would-be members of the Service Employees International Union Local 500.
But instead, the National Labor Relations Board will grant a summary judgment, rendered by a judge before a hearing even takes place, to determine whether the University is abiding by the board’s labor practice standards.
On July 29, the NLRB filed a complaint against GW after University officials refused to recognize the validity of last October’s unionization election, in which part-time professors narrowly voted to form a union. GW administrators contended that the NLRB’s May 6 decision that part-time faculty members approved a union by 10 votes in last fall’s vote was flawed, and are now calling for the inclusion of 30 more faculty members who did not cast ballots one year ago.
“We are not negotiating because we don’t believe it was a free and fair election,” said Tracy Schario, GW’s of MediaRelations. “We’re hoping the NLRB will reconsider.”
The NLRB is a federal agency mandated to enforce the National Labor Relations Act. The board regulates elections to determine if employees want union representation, and is also responsible for investigating unfair labor practices by employers and unions.
The NLRB’s general counsel filed a motion for summary judgment on Aug. 19, said Lester Heltzer, executive secretary of the NLRB. In September, SEIU Local 500 officials told The Hatchet that the NLRB doesn’t usually push for a judgment before the hearing unless the board feels it has a solid case. It is uncertain when the NLRB will return a decision.
David Rodich, executive director of the SEIU Local 500, said he thinks the summary judgment will be decided in favor of union advocates.
“The (University’s) violation (of NLRB labor practices) is so readily transparent that they don’t need a hearing,” Rodich said. “We’re hoping once the board acts definitively, the administration at GW will come to their senses and get about addressing the (bargaining) issues.”
But even if the board ruling finds GW guilty of unfair labor practices, the University can appeal the NLRB decision in a federal circuit court, in a move that would delay the formation of a part-time faculty union on campus indefinitely as the case moves through the U.S. court system. Union supporters have tried to form a collective bargaining group at GW for the last few years.
Lead union organizer and adjunct music professor Kip Lornell said the University is using “tortured delaying tactics” to prevent adjunct unionization.
“The University spends about 1 percent of its budget on adjunct salaries, but adjuncts teach about 60 percent of the students on campus,” Lornell said at a Student Association meeting Tuesday night. “The University uses adjuncts to save money.”
Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs Donald Lehman said he thinks there’s a chance that the board will rule in favor of the University.
“It’s entirely possible the NLRB will allow the 30 other people to vote,” Lehman said. GW officials have consistently opposed the formation of a part-time faculty union, though they encouraged all professors eligible to vote to cast ballots in the October election. n