University hopes to reverse NLRB ruling on part-time professors union

The National Labor Relations Board upheld the adjunct and part-time professors’ union in a unanimous decision Dec. 28. However, the University has now filed a petition to the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. for a review of the NLRB’s decision, prolonging again the recognition of a union.

“It’s painfully clear – they don’t really care about process; all they want to do is stall this as long as they can,” said Kip Lornell, an adjunct faculty member of the music department and unionization effort leader.

The NLRB first filed the complaint in July 2005 after GW failed to recognize the results of the October 2004 vote by part-time faculty. GW administrators continue to believe that the 341 to 331 favorable vote was faulty because it disenfrancished some potential voters.

The NLRB is a federal agency responsible for enforcing the National Labor Relations Act. In a case such as this, the board regulates elections of employees debating unionization. Tracy Schario, GW’s director of Media Relations, said she is optimistic the Court of Appeals will review the case.

Conflict arose after it was decided that two Law School adjuncts, who were hired by an outside firm to work at GW, were eligible to vote in the election. From that point, the University called for the inclusion of more indirectly hired faculty. The University has been calling for inclusion of 30 faculty members who did not vote in the initial election.

“If the University can’t constitute their list that they wanted to from the beginning, and they’re not capable of doing that, why should everyone else pay for their ineptitude?” Lornell said.

In its ruling, the NLRB explained that GW did not have solid ground to challenge the election. The decision said GW “does not offer to adduce at a hearing any newly discovered and previously unavailable evidence … (and) has not raised any representation issue.” The ruling described GW’s arguments as “without merit.”

Lornell criticized the University for taking the decision to the Court of Appeals, arguing that the University is spending tuition money on litigation, not education. He said he is optimistic that the Court of Appeals would rule in favor of unionization, though the process could take months.

GW adjuncts are attempting to become the second unionized faculty in the country, after the feat was accomplished at New York University. The initial hope was that unionization would be an effective tool for salary and benefits issues. Lornell said adjuncts and part-time faculty teach the majority of classes but aren’t represented in the Faculty Senate, so the only way they can negotiate is as a union. He encouraged students to become active in support of the unionization effort.

In the past, the University has expressed opposition to unionization because it would prefer negotiating teaching contracts without a third party. The University also believes that unionization could create some restraints on class scheduling and professors’ workloads. Schario said that adjuncts and part-time professors represent a diverse group of interests.

“It’s not that we’re anti-union, it’s just that for this particular union of part-time faculty, a good number of them, a majority of them, have full-time jobs elsewhere,” Schario said.

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