Seattle University’s contingent and adjunct faculty unionization efforts remained promising as students publically allied with professors in an on-campus rally. In a march from the Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons to the Administration building on Friday, May 30, students chanted and cheered in support for their contingent professors working to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 925.
The rally coincides with the final day of ballot collection in the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election on Monday, June 2. Due to the university’s appeal of the NLRB verdict which states that contingent faculty have the right to unionize, the ballots will be impounded. As higher courts of the NLRB further examine the university’s appeal, the decision as to whether or not Seattle U contingent faculty do agree to unionize with SEIU will remain unknown.
Last October, Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) underwent the same process as their non-tenured faculty voted on their decision to join SEIU. Like that of Seattle U administration, before the votes were counted, PLU administration appealed the election to the NLRB, arguing a religious exemption from the NLRB’s federal jurisdiction. The ballots were then shipped to the NLRB’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. PLU’s case is still under consideration.
Regarding Seattle U’s contingent’s current plans, Louisa Edgerly, an Adjunct Faculty member of Communications and Journalism said, “As long as the appeal is pending, we’re going to try to continue to build support on campus. [We will] talk to our colleagues and determine what kinds of gains people are interested in achieving. We’re going to keep the process going as long as the appeal is pending.”
Edgerly described the student support contingent faculty has received as “tremendous.” She expressed her thanks for the support and is hopeful that it will continue. She spoke to the importance of that support in convincing university administration to remove the appeal when she said, “It helps to show the university that our arguments make sense to other people…including alumni, parents, students. We have a university community who would like the votes to be counted and proceed…to see the university work with us whatever that decision may be.”
Early this year, concerned students formed the Student Coalition for Faculty Rights (SCFR). In a media statement the organization released to The Spectator, SCFR defines that their objective is to “raise awareness of the unionization effort amongst the student body and raise our voice to the University Administration in support of our professors. In the wake of the regional NLRB’s decision to allow a union vote, and Seattle University administration’s subsequent appeal, SCFR has focused its efforts on this latter goal of vocalizing support.”
With SCFR President Meghan Kennedy’s screams magnified by use of a megaphone, students repeated back chants “Don’t believe the administration’s lies!” and “Our money, our voice.” Students participating in the rally carried signs and donned pins expressing their support for their contingent faculty. Adjunct professor for Political Science, Larry Cushnie, spoke to the crowd, thanking them for their support and encouraging them to continue their efforts.
The Seattle Times covered the rally, quoting SGSU president Eric Chalmers and external chief of staff Izzy Gardon.
“We’re not necessarily in support of the presence of a union—this gets a little tricky for us,” Chalmers said. “We share the concern. A union is an outside party that doesn’t understand how higher education works. A union is a solution here, but not the optimal solution.”
SCFR told The Spectator that they are “thankful for the coverage” by the Times article but regard its tone as biased.