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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Part-time faculty union to go forward pending certification

The move will change the way the University negotiates with its part-time professors, and at least one professor said, lead to the resignation of faculty who don’t want to join a labor group.

Under the supervision of two NLRB officials, adjunct union organizers and University officials, 28 contested votes from an October election were reconsidered and gave a slight edge to unionization supporters. Proponents of the organization of part-time faculty won by a vote of 341 to 331.

In October, part-time professors who had taught a class in two semesters between fall 2002 and spring 2004 voted for unionization by a 12-vote margin, with an official final count of 694 votes. There were questions over submission deadlines and the eligibility of some ballots that delayed the final tally until last week.

Kip Lornell, lead union organizer and professor of Africana will be a part of the Service Employees International Union Local 500, should be certified in the next two weeks, making GW the second private university – New York University was the first – to have unionized part-time professors.

But the University, which has continually resisted part-time faculty efforts to unionize, has not yet formally recognized Tuesday’s vote in favor of organizers. At Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting, President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg told The Hatchet that last week’s decision may still have some “outstanding” legal issues.

“Our lawyers need to brief us … as to exactly what the vote means and to what extent some of the issues that trouble us make the process vulnerable,” Trachtenberg said. “We’re not absolutely certain that the law has been fully observed.”

He added that the University will not recognize the union until Tuesday’s vote is certified.

If the vote is deemed legal, GW will have to engage in negotiations and collective bargaining with its adjuncts on issues such as standardizing salary increases and promotions, the availability of health and retirement benefits and working conditions and job security, Lornell said.

Officials are contending that the 10-vote win in favor of unionization does not give organizers widespread support for the union.

“The vote was very close, a very small percentage of the total adjunct faculty voted, and then if you count the votes as they have been projected, a change in five votes would have resulted in a different outcome,” Trachtenberg said. “So it’s not as if the union has a mandate in the sense that there’s an overwhelming desire to have a union.”

Some part-time professors said they are not in support of organizing as part of the SEIU.

“So many professors like myself see no need for a union,” part-time law school professor Michael Sanders said. “This is an unfortunate result for students, and I’m very disappointed.”

Sanders added that forcing all part-time professors to join a union will lead to professor resignations and put pressure on the University’s budget.

“We prefer to deal with people who participate in the University directly,” Trachtenberg said. “As you can tell, there is a very split decision here on the part of the adjunct faculty of whether they think a union is a good idea or not.”

Union organizer and women’s studies department professor Ann McLeer said she hopes professors will come to see the benefits of unionization because “there’s something in this (union) for everyone.”

“Everything we do will aim to reach all those in the process,” she said, adding that she hopes the University will accept the union’s formation and bargain with it in good faith.

Trachtenberg said that in the “hypothetical” event that the union should prevail, the University would “begin the negotiation process.”

-Marissa Levy contributed to this report.

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