The tally of a mail-in vote that capped a six-month campaign by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to represent Boston University’s part-time faculty showed 319 votes for the union and 158 against; 10 ballots were challenged and 7 were voided. SEIU Local 509 will now begin negotiations with the University about issues that are expected to include compensation, working conditions, and part-time faculty’s role in decision-making.
Juditra Burgess, BU’s labor relations director, says the University welcomes talks with the SEIU, whose Local 32BJ has long represented BU’s service and maintenance employees. “We look forward to continuing to work with the SEIU,” says Burgess. “We have a long history of more than 60 years of working together, and we look forward to negotiating a new contract for our part-time faculty.”
Julie Sandell, associate provost for faculty affairs and a School of Medicine professor of anatomy and neurobiology, says she also welcomes the coming talks. “We greatly appreciate every person who took the time to consider the issues and vote in this election,” Sandell says. “Part-time faculty will continue to be a valuable component of our faculty and I look forward to the next steps. I hope that the collective bargaining process will allow us to address best practices for the employment of part-time faculty in areas that will strengthen the relationship between our faculty, our students, and the University.”
In recent months, part-time faculty demanding better pay and benefits have pushed for unionization at colleges and universities across the country. On October 27, 2014, Tufts part-time faculty became the first at a local institution to approve a contract. Their new agreement grants a 22 percent pay raise over the next three years, and for those who teach three or more courses over the academic year, access to health, retirement, tuition reimbursement, and other employee benefits. Part-time faculty at Northeastern and Lesley Universities have also voted to unionize in recent months, and similar campaigns are under way at Bentley University and Simmons College.
Jason Stephany, Local 509 director of communications, says the vote represents a significant victory for non-tenure-track faculty throughout the greater Boston area. He says some 750 BU adjunct faculty have now joined Faculty Forward—an SEIU Local 509 project that works to raise faculty pay. Stephany says negotiations with the University should begin in the coming months, and will initially discuss concerns of the faculty and the administration and what they can do together to improve the learning experience on campus.
A union press release quotes Laurie LaPorte (GRS’07), a College of Arts & Sciences lecturer in anthropology: “We started with a simple premise: If excellence in learning is the core mission of our university, then we need real investment in the classroom—in the equitable, sustainable treatment of all educators. Today, with the support of our students, colleagues, and community allies, we’ve taken a major step toward improving the learning experience at Boston University. Together we are stronger.”
The outcome of the secret ballot mail-in election, which ran from January 13 to 30, was determined by a simple majority of those part-time faculty who returned their ballots. The voting unit, which was determined last fall by the National Labor Relations Board, consisted of part-time faculty in all schools and colleges, except for the Goldman School of Dental Medicine and the School of Medicine, although it includes MED’s Division of Graduate Medical Sciences. The unit included part-time faculty who are paid on a per-course or per-hour basis and who teach at least one credit-bearing course in a degree-granting program. The unit did not include full-time faculty, whether tenured, tenure-track, or on contracts, and it excluded visiting faculty, graduate assistants, faculty who teach only online or who teach at campuses outside Massachusetts, a variety of administrators, and athletics coaches.
“BU adjuncts have made a clear decision, overwhelmingly choosing unionization as the best way to make our university a better place to teach and to learn,” says Dan Hunter (GRS’98), a CAS lecturer in English and a Metropolitan College Arts Administration Program lecturer, who was also quoted in the union’s press release. “I am proud to be part of a national movement working for better pay, improved stability, and a real voice in the decisions that impact educators and our students.”