WEB UPDATE: Court denies GW’s appeal in adjunct faculty union suit

Posted Wednesday, Nov. 29, 6:43 p.m.

The GW administration was handed another legal defeat this week in the ongoing dispute over part-time faculty unionization.

Less than two weeks after a U.S. Court of Appeals heard GW’s case against the creation of a part-time faculty union, the court denied the appeal and ruled that the University must bargain with the union within a week’s time of the Nov. 27 ruling or petition for another appellate hearing. The University had argued that some eligible faculty members were not given an opportunity to participate in the 2004 vote to unionize.

“We’re hoping at this point the administration will come to the table and bargain in good faith,” said Sean Carr, director of communication for Service Employees International Union Local 500.

Tracy Schario, director of media relations said GW is displeased with the ruling, but no decision on a future course of action has yet been made.

“The University is disappointed in the decision because we would prefer that all affected faculty members have had a full and fair opportunity to cast ballots in the election,” Schario said.

“Because we have just obtained the ruling, it is obviously premature to comment on next steps at this time,” she added.

The case fist began after the 2004 vote by part-time faculty deciding whether to create a union in conjunction with the SEIU Local 500. GW contends that nearly 30 independent contractors who were eligible to vote were not aware of the election and therefore appealed the vote in favor of creating a union.

Last December the National Labor Relations Board, a federal agency charged with enforcing the National Labor Relations Act and regulating unionization elections, upheld the election results in a unanimous decision.

According to the Office of Institutional Research, there are 2,929 part-time professors out of a total of 4,478 professors this fall.

The decision, filed Nov. 27, could force the University to request the case be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. GW also has the option to apply for an en banc hearing, in which all nine of the D.C. Court of Appeals judges would hear the case.

Schario said the University is “evaluating the next steps” but that “a lot of people need to be consulted that are in the decision-making process.” She did not have a timeline for when the University would make a decision.

According to the D.C. Court of Appeals Web site, an en banc option is viable only when “ordered by a majority of the judges in regular active service. or when the case involves a question of exceptional importance.” If that option was denied by the Court, the University’s next option would be an appeal to the Supreme Court.

“It’s almost outside of the realm of possibility that (the D.C. Court of Appeals) would agree to revisit the case.and there is no way on this planet that the U.S. Supreme Court would hear a trivial setting case,” said Kip Lornell, an adjunct professor of music and an organizer of the union.

Carr believes this ruling affirmed the case of the part-time faculty members and any future litigation would bring the same result.

“In the event of an en banc.we would be confident once again in a ruling in favor of the adjunct faculty,” he said.

Lornell said he is pleased, but is surprised by the speed of the decision.

He said: “all of us are stunned they made a decision in less than two weeks. We didn’t expect (a decision) until February.”

-David Ceasar contributed to this report.

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