The regional arm of the National Labor Relations Board has ordered Seattle University to count the ballots that adjuncts cast in a quest to form a union.
The regional arm of the federal labor relations board has again determined that the votes cast by Seattle University adjuncts on forming a union should be counted.
The university says it plans to appeal.
At issue is the question of whether adjunct faculty members — also known as contingent faculty — can form a union through Service Employees International Union 925. Contingent faculty members, who make up more than 50 percent of the faculty but work on contract and are not on track to earn tenure, say they want to form a union because of concerns about pay and working conditions.
Adjunct faculty members cast votes on the union issue last summer, but the ballots were impounded before they were counted when Seattle University appealed the election to the National Labor Relations Board, arguing the school should be exempt from NLRB jurisdiction because it is a religiously operated institution.
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Ever since, the two sides have gone back and forth with the regional and national branches of the NLRB, with adjuncts trying to win approval for the votes to be counted and Seattle University filing appeals to block the union’s actions.
In the most recent decision, NLRB regional director Ronald Hooks found that Seattle University is not a church-operated institution, as defined by a previous NLRB case, NLRB v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago. Hooks also found that Seattle University has not proved that any of its faculty are responsible for performing specific religious functions.
In a statement posted on its website, Seattle University said the issue “is not whether employees may unionize. Rather, the issue is whether the government should have influence or control over the religious mission of Seattle University.”