Seattle University says a regional office of the National Labor Relations Board misapplied new rules about unionization at religious schools.
Seattle University has filed a second appeal to try to block attempts by its adjunct faculty members to form a union.
The appeal comes after the National Labor Relations Board’s local office issued a ruling earlier this month that appeared to clear the way for union votes cast last summer to be counted.
At issue is a vote taken last year by adjunct faculty members — also known as contingent faculty — to 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, have said they moved to form a union because of concerns about pay and working conditions.
Seattle University has argued that they are working to fix compensation inequalities and other issues raised by faculty, and that a union is not the way to do it.
“The issue is not whether faculty may organize,” Seattle University lawyers wrote in the appeal. “Rather, the issue is whether the government can and should exercise control or influence over how a religiously-affiliated university carries out its religious mission.” The appeal goes on to explain why the university believes the local office of the NLRB misapplied the findings from another recent union case to Seattle University’s situation.
University officials described the appeal as a “necessary procedural step that preserves the university’s options to seek court review” of NLRB’s new standards determining whether it has jurisdiction over religiously-affiliated colleges and universities. Seattle University and other Catholic universities say they have a constitutionally protected right to educate students “free from government interference.”
Contingent faculty member Louisa Edgerly, an instructor of communications and journalism at the university, said members were disappointed with the university’s decision to appeal, saying it will waste time and money. “We expect the national NLRB to reject SU’s appeal quickly, which would allow our ballots to finally be counted,” she said in a statement.