Staff editorial: Stop the foot-dragging with part-time union

Our View: GW’s underhanded tactics to block the formation of an adjunct union must stop.

Ever since (and before) GW’s part-time professors voted to form a union in an October 2004 National Labor Relations Board election, University administrators have opposed its existence. Even after certification, and subsequent legal rulings stipulating the legality of the union, GW continues to drag out the process through legal filings and other technicalities.

The University’s continued tactics to stall the formation of the union, regardless of lingering questions concerning the merits of an adjunct union, must stop.

The University administration’s stance against the formation of an adjunct union is understandable. Traditionally, adjunct faculty members are hired to supplement full-time faculty by allowing professionals in various fields to infuse their expertise into an academic curriculum. In the University’s view, proponents of the union are attempting to create full-time positions out of what is inherently a part-time position.

GW, however, forced the issue of adjunct unionization on itself through long-running policies that created a heavy reliance on part-time faculty. Many students go through years of foreign language instruction at GW without having a full-time instructor, and adjunct faculty teach a significant number of classes in many other departments.

While both sides present compelling arguments as to whether the union is necessary or worthwhile, the time for that debate has passed. The NLRB certified the results of the election, and in a Dec. 28 decision noted that GW’s arguments against the union are “without merit.”

Further stalling the union will only waste more time and resources, and furthers the perception that GW administrators are more concerned with bottom lines and profit motives above all else. Already strained faculty-administration relations will continue to deteriorate as this process drags on.

Still, in the long term there is hope for GW’s position. Administrators worried about the impact of collective bargaining on adjunct salary and benefits could easily undercut the power of the union by hiring more full-time faculty.

A concerted effort on the part of the administration to have adjunct faculty return to their traditional role as supplemental educators by creating more full-time faculty positions would benefit the interests of students, administrators and professors. Administrators especially would have fewer adjunct faculty members to deal with.

Adjunct faculty members play an important role at every university. The availability in Washington, D.C., of high-quality professionals from almost every field makes the role of adjuncts at GW even more substantial. It is understandable that GW would tap into the resources of the city to improve the quality of instruction.

There can be little sympathy, however, for an administration that over-utilizes adjunct faculty to the point where unionization becomes a serious option. The NLRB certified the results of the original election in early 2005, and again upheld their ruling last month. It’s time for the GW administration to realize that it is fighting a losing battle.

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