Adjunct Union Certified
Published: Thursday, May 16, 2013
Updated: Thursday, May 16, 2013 22:05
The May 3 vote by Georgetown’s adjunct professors to unionize was certified by the National Labor Relations Board on Monday, allowing the Services Employees International Union Local 500 to represent Georgetown adjunct faculty members.
Following Friday’s official tally, the NLRB allowed a seven-day waiting period for objections regarding election protocol, but none arose from the university or the union.
SEIU will represent part-time, non-tenure-track faculty on the main campus as a single bargaining unit, including those who did not vote for unionization.
“I think if a deal is made … it will affect all adjuncts, regardless if they are union members,” said Pablo Eisenberg, a senior fellow at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute and 12-year adjunct faculty member. “A lot of adjuncts who were not in favor of unionization will still benefit from unionization and the negotiations.”
SEIU will not represent adjunct faculty members from the Georgetown University Law Center or the Georgetown University Medical Center.
The university and the union will soon meet to discuss a new contract. According to an email from Provost Robert Groves to university faculty members, the timeline is unclear for the negotiating process.
Eisenberg said that talks would most likely start during the summer.
According to Anne McLeer, SEIU director of research and strategic planning, the union is currently compiling input from the adjunct faculty in order to determine the most pressing issues through a survey and focus groups.
“We invited everyone to come and talk about what changes they’d like to see,” McLeer said. “We heard a lot during the campaign, but we’d like to get to specifics and set priorities.”
Overall, McLeer said she expected part-time faculty members to be interested in job security, a voice in department decision-making and pay closer to that of full-time faculty members.
Senior Advisor to the President for Faculty Relations Lisa Krim gave a presentation to the faculty senate Tuesday evening, discussing potential implications of the vote.
“It can take quite a while to reach an agreement,” Krim said. “There won’t be an immediate impact. There won’t be changes for summer, quite possibly not even for the fall.”
After an agreement is reached between the union and the university, the adjunct faculty members will be able to vote on the agreement. According to McLeer, the process could take up to six months.
Krim cited the university’s behavior prior to the vote as an indication for the productivity of future talks.
“If the process of election was any indication, it is likely to be very productive and very professional,” Krim said.
“We have every confidence that this will be a collaborative and productive process.”
Krim said that the union would most likely be pursuing an increase in salary for adjunct faculty members, although Georgetown’s current pay level is relatively high compared to other universities. Krim did not state specific statistics but said the university used preliminary market data.
“This is not a situation where the folks who already negotiated [with SEIU] are high and Georgetown is bringing up the bottom,” Krim said. “Our salaries are competitive, but there are a lot of variation among programs and schools. I can easily see the union advocating for much more consistency and advocating for a floor.”
In addition, Krim spoke about healthcare for adjunct faculty members, especially with the Affordable Care Act in play.
“[The Affordable Care Act] requires the university to cover, I think, 90 percent of full-time employees, so the real questioning that is percolating … is how do you count ‘full-time?’”
In addition, the definition of “part-time” can differ between that used in the Affordable Care Act and the university definition regarding union representation.
“Various formulas are being put out there … but the law hasn’t settled down … we’re looking for more guidance out of the government, and that will hopefully come sooner than later,” Krim said.
Adjunct professor of psychology Frank Warman, who abstained from the unionization vote, said that success would be potentially difficult on points such as job security or pay.
“All universities are strained as far as budgets are concerned. One of the reasons they hire adjuncts is because of their budgets,” Warman said. “The kinds of things they’re asking for, such as healthcare benefits or job security, where they want to know well in advance whether they would teach in the future, I know, at least in my department, that’s not really something that the chair knows until the semester before.”
Overall, McLeer encouraged all adjunct faculty members to participate in the process and contact the union with concerns, whether or not they originally voted for the union.
“We represent everyone, and everyone equally has the opportunity to make positive, lasting change,” McLeer said.