At the George Washington University, part-time unionization efforts were sped up when the matter was taken up to the National Labor Relations Board by Service Employees International Union, Local 500 through filing a petition. The petition is for the Service Employees to represent most part-time and regular part-time faculty at the George Washington University after they were able to muster enough support and obtained sufficient signatures from the concerned part-time faculty. The minimum requirement for qualifying to hold elections was met with the Service Employees gathering about 30% support from the part-time faculty that was present and scheduled to teach in the Spring semester of 2004. The Service Employees demanded fair elections to be held for the concerned party and through a democratic way a decision should be obtained whether the part-time faculty wants the Service Employees to represent them or not.
For the benefit of the part-time faculty, the Service Employees ran a highly organized campaign ensuring that the part-time faculty gets to know about the elections in October. We set up posters and flyers all over the campus and communicated with the part-time faculty to inform them that we are acting for their best interest and it is their benefit to give the Service Employees the vote of confidence which would ensure a secure future for them with the George Washington University and there would be extensive talks regarding the pay structures and the appointment and reappointment of the part-time faculty. It was brought to their attention that the George Washington University aimed at making this unionization a failure due to their own self-interest.
The George Washington University fears that if the Service Employees are successful in gaining enough support from the part-time faculty then the Service Employees would bargain at issues like the salaries, fringe benefits, ease of workloads, convenient schedules, and a change of working hours. With rigorous bargaining at these fronts, the George Washington University feels that it would sour the relationship between itself and the part-time faculty thus causing an adverse effect on the strategic plan being followed currently. Moreover it is unsure about the information flow regarding the prerequisites of union membership and its positive or negative effects on the "working and educational relationships of its members" (Donald R. Lehman).
In response to the efforts being conducted by the Service Employees to secure the future of the part-time faculty, the George Washington University issued a memorandum to the part-time faculty in which they have tried to discredit the Service Employees. They set up a website that related to the unionization efforts to gain their confidence and cause a failure to the representation of the part-time faculty by the Service Employees. They also brought it to part-time faculty's notice that an attempt to make the unionization successful would be a direct cause to the imbalance in their relationship with them and thus restricting their professional interaction. It was crystal clear that George Washington University was against the unionization efforts and planned to put up a strong opposition. Even after the election was conducted, due to the fact that the National Labor Relations Board declared the two voters, who were objected upon to be ineligible, as eligible, the George Washington University still did not recognize Labor 500 to be the legitimate representatives of the part-time faculty.
How Would Unionization Benefit Part-Time Faculty and How Would It Not Benefit It
As previously discussed, the part-time faculty would greatly benefit from the unionization. It would have a union to speak for its needs and concerns. The area where the part-time faculty would benefit the most is that it would have a voice of a union, an organization to bargain and negotiate regarding their salaries. Different faculty members undergo different work hours and course schedule without any attention to their convenience or ease. With Service Employees representing them, they would discuss on issues like these that would be aimed to bring ease to the part-time faculty and also voice their concerns regarding their appointment and reappointment procedures. The union would also seek to gain benefits from the George Washington University and aim to ease the workload from their shoulders.
On the other hand unionization might have some negative effects as well. Most importantly unionization could lead to weakening of the ties and relationship between the George Washington University and the part-time faculty, hindering and curbing any interaction between them. The University would show limited reliance on them. Moreover a union would require a certain amount of money to be deducted from the salaries of the part-time faculty. This would be their continued employment fees and would also include any dues. A member of the union could be fined at the discretion of the union if he or she wishes not to participate in a strike called by the union. The union can use the help of the courts to ensure the implementation of the fines. To a certain extreme, the union can demand the termination of such a member's appointment. Rather than negotiations done regarding their pay or benefits, with unionization all members of the part-time faculty would have to agree on whatever the union negotiates for them. This would also mean that while some would have flexible work hours, the others might yet not have any and they would not be able to deal with this matter at an individual level.
Essential Elements to Communicate
In the March 17, 2004 memorandum to the Deans, the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs shows his concerns regarding the efforts for unionization. In the memo he covers all the essential mode and forms of communication that should transpire between the George Washington University and the part-time faculty. Keeping in view the federal law called the "Labor Relations Act" he lays down to rules of having a dialogue with the part-time faculty. He makes it clear that the George Washington University cannot threaten any member of the part-time faculty and thus explains that the University should inform them about the negative effects that unionization might bring about due to which the part-time faculty might suffer. Further he stresses that the University can under no circumstances ask or coerce the part-time faculty into informing them whether they have signed the union authorization card or not. This is again an important point to keep in mind when seeking a healthy communication with the voters. Coercion might cause loss of supporters and a definite defeat in the election.
Surveillance is another option ruled out by the University as it would be invading the privacy of the voters and they might feel threatened because of it. Thus he concluded that the only form of communication should be restricted to the limits where the University can relay their personal opinions and the way they observe and perceive the unionization to be non-beneficial for the part-time faculty. There can be no addition or subtraction from the rules of engagements described by the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs. The essential elements necessary to communicate have been covered in the most appropriate manner.
GWU's Post-Election Position
In the August 29, 2005 "Part-Time Faculty Unionization Update," the George Washington University declares and appeals that the current election which were held should be declared void and fresh elections should be held. This stand of theirs is correct in nature because the two people, who were third-party employees, were declared eligible by the National Labor Relations Board and their vote was counted. In view of this the George Washington University is rightful on its stand that all such individuals who were at the University and whose services were being obtained in a similar manner should be declared eligible to vote and should be included in the election. Had the number of such individuals been less than the number of votes with which Service Employees won the election, then the University's stand would have been wrong and one might have said that they were trying to cause chaos and denying their clear defeat. However the fact remains that the number of such individuals is far more than the number of votes by which the University lost the election therefore the University is rightfully asking for a re-election.
As such no severe consequences will appear because of the University's stand and as a matter of principle the Service Employees should accept that not all members of the part-time faculty received a chance to vote for their betterment as they perceived it. However this stand might lead to the division between the part-time employees where those for unionization would want to stick to the present election result and those who do not want it might voice for a re-election. Further the Service Employees might demand that the current election result should be held legitimate and an additional election involving only those left out should be conducted.
To: Part-Time Faculty
From: Head of Service Employees International Union Local 500.
Subject: Union's Stand Regarding University's Position…