Provost's Letter on Non-Tenure Track Union Petition
June 10, 2016
As you are likely aware, yesterday afternoon we received a petition that was filed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) seeking to unionize full-time and part-time non-tenure-track faculty who teach in the schools on the Evanston campus, other than Kellogg.
Once a determination is made as to the scope of the potential bargaining unit, there will be an election in which those non-tenure-track faculty will have an opportunity to vote on whether they wish to be represented by the SEIU. Currently there also is a hearing scheduled for next Friday (the same day as commencement) to determine the appropriate scope of any eventual bargaining unit. In the meantime, we will be working with SEIU in an attempt to reach agreement on the appropriate group of voters, which will determine whether a hearing is necessary.
Northwestern University respects the lawful right of employees to decide whether they wish to be represented by a union. We hope that all eligible voters will cast a vote and exercise these rights; the outcome is determined by a majority of those who actually vote, but the result applies to all eligible voters. So, this will affect you whether you vote or not.
We understand that the timing of this petition and ensuing election is not ideal, as most of you are undoubtedly busy preparing for the end of the school year and upcoming summer break. That said, we encourage you to ask as many questions as possible in the compressed timeframe between now and the election to enable you to make a fully informed decision. Over the coming days, you can expect more information from me and others in the administration. We intend to answer any questions you may have about what it means to be represented by a union or about the process.
Briefly, however, I want to take this moment to reiterate to you that the University has been, and remains committed to cultivating its relationship with its non-tenure track faculty, keeping the lines of communication open, and improving working conditions for all faculty members, including the non-tenure-track faculty. Just a few examples of initiatives the University has been engaged in over the past several years that are aimed towards improving the working conditions for non-tenure-track faculty at the University include:
- Increase in multi-year contracts;
- Implementation of promotional tracks;
- Non-tenure-track representation on the Faculty Senate, the primary academic governing body;
- Grievance procedures for purposes of raising formal complaints;
- Ombudsmen program available designed to help faculty informally raise and resolve concerns about any aspect of their work environment.
I believe that we all agree that the distinctive education that our students receive, and the intellectual community that it helps to foster, are essential qualities of Northwestern University. From its founding, the University has been unwaveringly committed to excellent teaching, innovative research and the personal and intellectual growth of its students in a diverse academic community. To maintain that strength, the University needs academic professionals who share the institution’s high ambitions, and who are eager to teach students of the highest potential. We hope to continue working directly with all of our faculty members on these matters going forward.
I am grateful for your deep commitment to Northwestern University and to the education of our students. I share your commitment. You can expect to receive more information from us as this process moves forward. In the meantime, however, please do not hesitate to contact your dean or my office with any questions on these or other issues.