Adjunct professors set to vote on unionization

SEIU localThe Service Employees International Union of the D.C. metro area filed for an election to the National Labor Relations Board in an ongoing effort to form a union of adjunct professors on the hilltop. This motion marks significant progress since Georgetown’s Provost Robert Groves reaffirmed the University’s endorsement of unionization rights of its employees.

Now that SEIU has officially filed for election, the National Labor Relations Board will take control of the process in conjunction with Georgetown administration and SEIU to agree on a date for an election—likely mid-April. Adjunct instructors of the University will vote on a secret ballot, and a union will form if a majority votes “yes.” According to Anne McLeer, SEIU’s Director of Research and Strategic Planning, Georgetown has pledged neutrality in upcoming process.

In an email to faculty yesterday evening, Groves encouraged all eligible professors to vote, regardless of their views on unionization. “The NLRB election process is governed by majority rule, but the election will be determined by a majority of those who actually vote,” Groves wrote (italics his). “Therefore, Georgetown encourages eligible faculty members to participate in the election, whatever their views might be.  The results of the election will affect all faculty members who are covered by the election petition, whether or not those faculty members participate in the election.

Last Thursday evening, in White Gravenor, students and part-time faculty members at Georgetown joined leading adjunct activists to share their experiences and to address their proceeding endeavors for adjunct activism.

“For adjuncts across the country, average full time equivalent salary is $21,000 per year with usually no health insurance, no benefits, no retirement plans, no access to professional development unless people happen to be in unions,” Maria Maisto, Georgetown Alum and president of the New Faculty Majority, said in her opening remarks.

New Faculty Majority is a national organization that also works in coalitions with other unions under the slogan of “educate, advocate, litigate, legislate.” It is currently partnering with Service Employees International Union in their “metro-organizing” strategy in the effort to organize a union for adjunct instructors in the district, including Georgetown University.

McLeer added that the movement was about negative effects of contingency at large. McLeer indicated in her statements that approximately 50 percent of professors in higher education are part-time while another 25 percent are contingent faculty.

“I think we should all be concerned in a democracy about the fact that 50 to 75 percent of professors do not have any time or resources for research, scholarship and production of knowledge,” McLeer said. “Traditionally, that’s what university was about.”

Pablo Eisenberg, a Georgetown adjunct professor and a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute, was of the same mind. According to Eisenberg, the current system is such that not only it affects adjunct instructors’ quality of teaching, but also stigmatizes the broader mission and purpose of higher education. “Money spent by universities on teaching has decreased for the last 20 years, while salaries of CEOs and presidents of universities have increased,” Eisenberg said.

Consequently, the leading adjunct activists underlined that unionization is requisite for future progress. According to Maisto, a union will help not only in terms of bread and butter issues, but also in terms of establishing a precedent for other colleges, universities and beyond.

“We have to recognize that we have a largely contingent economy—if we can begin to fight against it, we will help our colleagues, our fellow workers in other industries to fight back against the wave of contingent employment,” Maisto said.

McLeer also stressed that unionization is imperative for adjunct instructors across the country. “The institutions of higher education control the supply and demand of the market, and one of the ways to beat that is to organize a union to fight back,” McLeer said.

When asked about the details of the union contracts, McLeer mentioned that better job security, guarantee of academic freedom, and standardized and much more detailed evaluation procedures for part-time faculty and adjuncts are achieved in the language, among other things.

Maisto further noted that this movement is focused specifically on the connection between faculty working conditions and student learning conditions. “[Adjunct professors] Our working conditions are [students] your learning conditions,” Maisto said, “[students] you are paying the same amount of high tuition for something which you are not getting equal value.”

McLeer likewise encouraged students on the hilltop to tune into the needs of adjunct instructors at Georgetown and across America. “There is a lot of reasons why [students] your education is affected, and one is that education is no longer the key mission [for institutions],” McLeer said. “Property acquisition and growing the endowment and paying the presidents as if they’re CEOs of big businesses…education is not the priority anymore and that’s a huge problem.”

By the same token, Maisto emphasized the significance of student-faculty relationships, what she refers to as a “natural alliance,” in the equation to raise the tide for everyone.

“One of the things we’ve realized is that students really have a lot of power,” Maisto said. “If [students] you make your voices heard with the administration, they will listen to you. They won’t listen to us, but they will listen to you because you are students.”

“I want Georgetown to be a leader on this issue, and that’s the pressure that I put on Georgetown as an Alum,” Maisto said as she concluded her event last Thursday.

Read the Robert Groves’s full letter to faculty below:

Dear Members of the Main Campus Faculty:

As you may be aware, SEIU Local 500, the union that represents adjunct faculty at George Washington University and American University, has filed a petition for an election involving part-time, non-tenure line faculty who teach in the schools and programs of the Main Campus at Georgetown.  This message is intended to provide you with some preliminary information about the election process.

The election will be conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency that regulates the union representation process.  We expect that the NLRB will mail ballots to eligible voters by mid-April and will require that the ballots be returned by late April or early May.  The NLRB will then count the ballots at a date and time to be announced.   This will be a secret ballot election, so the votes of individual faculty members will not be known.

As stated in Georgetown’s Just Employment Policy, the University respects employees’ rights to freely associate and organize, which includes voting for or against union representation without intimidation, unjust pressure, undue delay or hindrance in accordance with applicable law.

The NLRB election process is governed by majority rule, but the election will be determined by a majority of those who actually vote.  Therefore, Georgetown encourages eligible faculty members to participate in the election, whatever their views might be.  The results of the election will affect all faculty members who are covered by the election petition, whether or not those faculty members participate in the election.

In general, the election petition covers part-time, non-tenure line faculty who teach credit earning courses in the programs and academic units of the Main Campus.  Faculty who taught in those programs and academic units during the Fall 2012 or Spring 2013 semesters and meet the criteria in the election petition will be eligible to vote in the election.

The election petition does not cover adjunct faculty who teach at the Georgetown University Law Center or the Georgetown University Medical Center (including the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing and Health Studies).  Faculty who teach at locations outside of Washington, DC also will not be included in this election.  A complete description of the categories of faculty who are covered by the election petition is set forth below:

“All part-time faculty who are employed by Georgetown University to teach in the programs and academic units of the University’s Main Campus in Washington, D.C., teaching at least one credit earning class, lesson or lab, but excluding all other employees, specifically:  all employees of the Georgetown University Law Center or the Georgetown University Medical Center (including the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing and Health Studies); all faculty teaching in locations outside of Washington, D.C.; all faculty teaching on-line courses (regardless of location); all full-time faculty; all graduate students; all lab assistants, graduate assistants, teaching associates, clinical fellows, teaching fellows, teaching assistants and research assistants; all full-time or part-time staff or administrators, whether or not they also have teaching responsibilities; all deans, registrars, and librarians; all volunteers; and all managers, supervisors, and guards as defined in the Act.”

The NLRB will mail ballots to all faculty members who are eligible to vote in the election.   We expect the ballots will be mailed in approximately mid-April.  If you have any questions about whether you are eligible to vote in the election, or if you believe you are eligible to vote and do not receive a ballot, please contact the NLRB’s Washington resident office at 202-208-3000 and ask for the information officer on duty.  Responses to frequently asked questions are available on the NLRB’s website:  http://www.nlrb.gov/faq/nlrb.

If you are eligible to have your vote counted in the election, you must ensure that the ballot is filled out according to the instructions provided by the NLRB and is received by the NLRB no later than the date specified by the NLRB.   These dates and instructions will be determined in the coming weeks.   Again, Georgetown encourages all eligible faculty members to participate in this election.

Should you have other questions, please contact Cynthia Chance, Director of Faculty Records and Assistant Provost at chancec@georgetown.edu.

Sincerely,
Bob Groves

—-
Robert Groves
Executive Vice President and Provost

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