On May 29, the National Labor Relations Board issued a decision against Vanderbilt in the university’s ongoing legal challenges to ballots which were cast in a union recognition election involving non-tenure track faculty over a year ago.
John Doyle Jr., the NLRB’s Region 10 director, overruled all of Vanderbilt’s challenges in a decision issued from the NLRB’s office in Atlanta. Among the challenges struck down was Vanderbilt’s claim that certain faculty members were “administrators” or “supervisors” and were not eligible to cast votes in the election. Doyle also rejected Vanderbilt’s effort to exclude the votes of faculty who administration claimed were not going to have their contracts renewed. Doyle’s order also directed that the ballots challenged by Vanderbilt be counted along with all the rest.
“Vanderbilt’s position on eligibility in this election has been repeatedly rejected by the NLRB and it’s time for the administration to count all the votes,” said Brad Rayson, president of SEIU Local 205. SEIU is representing the non-tenure track faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences who are seeking to form a union on campus.
The election was held on June 6, 2017 and was conducted via mail-in ballot. Initially, there were challenges by both Vanderbilt and SEIU but many were resolved by mutual agreement. Vanderbilt continued to challenge the eligibility of 28 ballots and in a NLRB Hearing Officer’s report from October, 2017 the university’s claims were rejected. Doyle’s decision reaffirms that 2017 report.
Despite Doyle’s directives, Vanderbilt has filed yet another appeal with the NLRB in Washington, D.C. even though in a July email to faculty, administrators wrote “the university believes that the most appropriate and fair path forward on the challenged ballots is to have the Regional Director make a decision by which all similarly situated faculty can be treated equally.”
“It is sad that Vanderbilt is spending vast sums of student and alumni funds on legal maneuvering and stall tactics when they could just sit down with us as equals and negotiate,” said Terrie Spetalnick, a sociology lecturer. “All we want are clear, consistent, reasonable policies and the right to bargain collectively in good faith.”
The union organizing campaign at Vanderbilt has gained support from local and national politicians over the last two years, including from former vice mayor David Briley as well as U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. Other local and state officials have stood in support with NTT faculty at Vanderbilt, as have community and church leaders across the city.
The latest decision by the NLRB comes in the wake of controversy over Chancellor Zeppos’ $3 million bonus, which was announced after a wave of layoffs, budget cuts, and lawsuits that occurred under his administration.
The Service Employees International Union (“SEIU”) which has a membership of over 2 million members, represents thousands of public and private sector workers in Tennessee, including those working in the field of higher education.