UPDATE (4:40 p.m., Sept. 9, 2016) — The following is from Washington Faculty Forward:
Seattle University adjunct and contingent faculty finally won their union today, when their ballots, cast in 2014, were counted at the Seattle regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). By a vote of 73 Yes to 63 No, non-tenure track faculty at Seattle University elected to join SEIU 925.
These faculty join a growing number of contingent faculty at both private and public institutions of higher education — including Georgetown University, St. Martin’s University, Tufts University, and Duke University– who are forming unions and winning better pay, improved working conditions, professional recognition and support from their employers.
Seattle University contingent faculty faced a two-year delay in their efforts to form a union, when the university administration chose to appeal the faculty’s right to unionize. This appeal meant that the faculty’s ballots were impounded at the NLRB office, uncounted, since 2014.
The university claimed that as a religiously affiliated institution it was exempt from NLRB jurisdiction.
After hearing this argument – and rejecting it– a total of five times, the NLRB finally ruled that the ballots must be counted.
Now, adjunct and contingent faculty at Seattle University will form a bargaining committee, and deliver a demand to bargain to the university administration. They are calling on SU President Sundborg to recognize their union and prepare to bargain in good faith with the adjunct and contingent faculty.
“Today’s win could not be more satisfying! This is a culmination of a lot of hard word and it is a dream come true!” said adjunct faculty member Julie Harms Cannon.
SEATTLE (Sept. 9, 2016) — Despite continued obstructions from Seattle University (SU) administrators, SU adjunct and contingent faculty will finally have their ballots counted for votes they cast in a 2014 National Labor Relations Board election. The ballots are finally scheduled to be counted today at 2 p.m. at the NLRB offices at Seattle Federal Building. (This story will be updated with the results when they are available.)
The adjunct faculty cast ballots in a union election administered by the NLRB in June 2014. But even as the faculty declared victory, the ballot were impounded after SU argued it was religiously exempt from NLRB jurisdiction. Contrary to Catholic teachings that explicitly support the rights of workers to form unions, the Roman Catholic university’s administrators first ran an aggressive campaign to urge faculty to vote against unionization before objecting to the election on religious grounds.
Ever since, despite multiple faculty walkouts and strong support of the adjuncts from other SU faculty, students and the community, SU administrators have waged a legal battle to avoid counting the ballots. On Aug. 23, 2016, the NLRB upheld jurisdiction over contingent and adjunct faculty at SU but excluded faculty in the School of Theology and Ministry and in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies. The ballots of the remaining faculty can now be counted.
Since 2013, Seattle University adjunct and contingent faculty have been trying to form a union with Washington Faculty Forward, a project of SEIU Local 925, in order to win fair pay, better job security, and a stronger voice on campus. SU faculty are joining thousands of non-tenure track faculty in a nationwide, rapidly growing movement to protect their profession from the increasing corporatization of higher education.
ALSO at The Stand — Seattle U’s union avoidance contrary to Catholic teachings — The Catholic Church has a long and well-documented tradition of supporting the rights of workers to organize unions and also of opposing government efforts to restrict workers’ access to unions. The U.S. Conference of Bishops has written, “Workers, owners, employers, and unions should work together to create decent jobs, build a more just economy, and advance the common good” and “no one may deny the right to organize without attacking human dignity itself.”