The National Labor Relations Board has told Vanderbilt it must count all but one of the challenged ballots from a vote on whether to unionize in June. Adjunct professors and full-time instructors in the College of Arts and Sciences were trying to gain collective bargaining. But the university had challenged whether some faculty members should be allowed to weigh in. A total of 28 were in question — enough to swing the outcome.
A hearing officer has issued a decision in the union's favor. The 45-page ruling (download here) drills down to the individuals by name. Vanderbilt questioned some because they are no longer employed by the school. The university also wanted to categorize many of them as administrators because of their out-of-class duties, but the NLRB hearing officer disagreed.
Leading up to the election, there were 255 non-tenure track professors in the College of Arts and Sciences, out of a total 634 faculty. 193 voted, and of the votes counted, more were in favor of unionizing.
Vanderbilt still has a couple of weeks to appeal and a statement from administrators says they're weighing their options.
“The university is evaluating the NLRB Hearing Officer’s report and in the process of determining next steps at this time. We continue to approach this process in good faith and with the wellbeing of the Vanderbilt community and its faculty at the forefront.”
But the Service Employees International Union Local 205 says the school should go ahead and begin the collective bargaining process.
“We call on the administration to accept the NLRB hearing officer’s decision and begin negotiating with us in good faith,” senior lecturer Heraldo Falconi says in a written statement. “We have lawfully completed the steps required for union certification and it's time to get started negotiating a clear set of policies and guidelines that's consistent for all non-tenure track employees.”
Even some union supporters have commended Vanderbilt for how it already treats non-tenure track faculty compared to other institutions. Still, they want a larger voice in compensation and working conditions.
If successful, these adjuncts, lecturers and instructors would be among the few to organize at a private university in the south. Duke was first. But this was one case where Vanderbilt officials hoped they would not match their academic rival.