Seattle University contingent faculty ask for union election

Staff writerFebruary 21, 2014 

Seattle University contingent faculty members this week became the second group of temporary university educators in the Puget Sound area to seek union representation.

The group of contingent faculty petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to call an election to determine if they will be represented by Service Employees International Union Local 925.

That's the same union that is seeking to organize contingent faculty members at Parkland's Pacific Lutheran University.  At PLU, the university has appealed the decision by the NLRB's regional director to hold such an election.

That election was held last fall, but the ballots have been locked away pending a decision on the university's appeal by the full NLRB.  That board last week set a schedule for parties in the matter to file briefs.

In the case of PLU, the univeristy contends its religious affiliation makes it exempt from NLRB rules and that the group of faculty members the union seeks to organize doesn't have enough working conditions in common to be represented by a single union.

Seattle University is affiliated with the Catholic Church.  The union has asked the university to remain neutral in the decision-making process.

The SEIU contends contingent faculty members are underpaid, have little job security and few benefits although nationwide such non-tenure-track faculty members make up nearly half of university faculty numbers.

Universities hire contingent faculty members to handle the surges in enrollment or for special classes that don't represent enough demand to hire a full-time faculty member.  The union contends that universities are relying more heavily on contingent faculty because they're seeking to keep costs low.


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