National Labor Relations Board rules in favor of faculty unionization effort


Hunter Long

Kirkland Hall houses Vanderbilt administration. (Hustler Multimedia/Hunter Long)

Sam Zern, Editor in Chief

Non-tenure track faculty efforts to unionize will move forward this year following a National Labor Relations Board ruling in favor of the union. A June vote showed that a majority of the voting non-tenure track faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences were in favor of forming a union. However, the university challenged 28 of the votes. The ruling came about after the NLRB reviewed the challenged ballots and determined that all but one would be counted.  

This means that the NLRB had again affirmed our right to unionize,” Amy Cooter, senior lecturer in the department of sociology and a member of the unionization effort organizational team, said. “It also means that Vanderbilt should now sit down with us and begin the collective bargaining process; they have said all along that they want us to have a fair vote, the NLRB has made that decision for A&S non-tenure-track faculty, so we are eager to move forward with them in this negotiation.”

Last year, non-tenure track members of Vanderbilt’s faculty in four colleges began the movement to unionize. The effort was not supported by the university, which was of the opinion that a unionized model was not appropriate for the governance structure of the university. In February, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board calling for a vote on whether or not faculty wanted the union.

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Only the College of Arts and Sciences voted majority in favor of unionizing. Of the 193 Arts and Sciences faculty members eligible to vote, 55 voted yes and 40 voted no. Of those votes, 28 were a challenged. University officials cited the fact that some of those who voted were either no longer employed by the university, had a primary teaching appointment in a school other than Arts and Sciences or had an administrative role that the university said should prevent them from voting as faculty. However, 27 of the challenged votes were counted, and the NLRB released a report detailing the reason each individual contested ballot was counted.

The university has until Nov. 2 to appeal the decision. In the meantime, updates will regularly be posted on the Provost’s website.

The university is evaluating the NLRB Hearing Officer’s report and in the process of determining next steps at this time,” John Geer, Vice Provost of Academic and Strategic Affairs, said. “We continue to approach this process in good faith and with the well-being of the Vanderbilt community and its faculty at the forefront. It is too early to know all the implications and what are best next steps.”