Part-time and full-time non-tenure track faculty at Northwestern University finally have won their union election, becoming the fourth group of Chicago faculty and graduate student employees to join SEIU Local 73 in 18 months.
Contingent faculty at University of Chicago voted to form their union in December 2015, and Loyola University Chicago faculty followed suit a month later. Together with graduate students at Loyola who voted for their historic union in February, Chicago and SEIU Local 73 is home to more than 1,500 faculty and graduate workers who are standing up in growing numbers.
The remaining valid ballots were counted at the Chicago office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 13 on Friday, May 12th after a series of legal roadblocks delayed the final vote tally since the election in July 2016. Upon opening the additional valid ballots, the majority support of the Union was once again confirmed and on Friday, May 26th the Chicago NLRB issued a certification of the election. Northwestern University is now legally obligated to bargain with non-tenure eligible faculty over the terms and conditions of their employment.
“Since our union election, we’ve continued to support and feel the excitement of the growing union movement in higher education. After the lengthy delay, Northwestern University contingent faculty are ready to work together to resolve issues concerning transparency, job security and wage equality. Northwestern faculty and their students deserve nothing less,” said Alessandra Visconti, a Lecturer in Italian.
There are more than 6,500 non-tenured faculty working in private colleges and universities in Chicago. Even at elite universities like Northwestern, many faculty members are now working part time for very low pay, or lack job security and voice in the academic community on campus. Students are increasingly saddled with crushing debt that could take a lifetime to get out from under. Parents are struggling to stay afloat in the face of skyrocketing tuition bills.
Job security and course load have become some of the top issues for faculty at one of the world’s most prestigious universities. Nearly half of all Northwestern faculty are excluded from tenure and are required to reapply for their jobs every few years in a lengthy and arduous reappointment process.
Across the country, more than 16,000 faculty at nearly 60 colleges and universities have united in the SEIU Faculty Forward movement to win respect, better wages, and to confront a broken higher education system.
Inspired by organizing efforts across the country, contingent faculty at Elmhurst College are currently taking steps towards unionization. “Congratulations to our fellow educators at Northwestern University on your hard work and collaboration in forming your union. We at Elmhurst College are hoping to follow in your footsteps to have a real voice on campus” says Girija Gullapalli an Adjunct Professor in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department.