Vanderbilt Faculty Forward

FF-logo-orangeWhile the struggle for non-tenure track faculty to form a union at Vanderbilt University continues, SEIU Local 205 is working hard to ensure that faculty have a voice and that their rights to form a union are protected and preserved.

Vanderbilt NTT Faculty & Grad Students Form New Alliance!

The NLRB repeatedly sided with SEIU against Vanderbilt’s legal challenges to the union election.

The NLRB repeatedly sided with SEIU against Vanderbilt’s legal challenges to the union election.

Non-tenure track faculty and graduate students have formed The Alliance of Faculty Forward and Graduate Workers United at Vanderbilt University.

The Alliance will focus on creating a mechanism for its membership to easily share information and knowledge that improves administrative processes related to their employment with an emphasis on fair and transparent policies. The Alliance will also help identify and track the best practices across the country for college instructors who lack the protection of tenure, and seek to implement those changes at Vanderbilt.

The Alliance is being formed in conjunction with the SEIU’s decision to withdraw its representation petition filed in 2017 with the National Labor Relations Board. The creation of the Alliance allows new opportunities to engage with the administration and to widen the network of allies interested in this endeavor without further delays from employer appeals to Labor Board rulings.

Non-tenure track faculty representatives recently met with the College of Arts and Science Dean John Geer and had a productive conversation that they hope will lead to further discussions under Geer’s open door policy.

“We are excited to be building on recent progress,” said sociology lecturer Terrie Spetalnick, who attended the meeting. “I’m thrilled that we are joining with graduate workers to form this Alliance. Concerted action focused on a shared vision and mutual concerns will benefit all of Vanderbilt and help further our vital mission of teaching and mentoring students.”

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Latest Vanderbilt Challenge on Union Election Struck Down By NLRB!

Vandy_Rally_Feb2017For Immediate Release:

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.

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Vanderbilt: The Story So Far

FF-logo-orangeAt the end of 2016, non-tenure-track (“NTT”) faculty at Vanderbilt University began in earnest to find out how they could form a union. Their search led them to SEIU, which has been organizing college campuses across the U.S. for years with great success.

Take a look at this timeline (prepared by the faculty’s organizing committee) which chronicles their challenging (and still ongoing) journey to form a union.


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NLRB: All Ballots Must Be Counted in Union Election at Vanderbilt

Vandy_Rally_Feb2017On October 20, a hearing officer with the National Labor Relations Board issued a decision that all ballots must be counted in the election to form a union of non-tenured faculty at Vanderbilt University. The decision, which could still be appealed by the employer and must still be approved by the NLRB’s Regional Director, gets NTT faculty in the college of Arts & Science one step closer to forming their union.

“We call on the administration to accept the NLRB hearing officer’s decision and begin negotiating with us in good faith,” says Heraldo Falconi, a senior lecturer at Vanderbilt. “We have lawfully completed the steps required for union certification and it’s time to get started negotiating a clear set of policies and guidelines that’s consistent for all non-tenure track employees.”

In June, non-tenured faculty voted to be represented by SEIU Local 205, but the election could not be certified because a number of the ballots were challenged by the university. Based on thorough evidence presented at an NLRB hearing this summer, which included testimony by 15 witnesses, the hearing officer rejected the employer’s effort to exclude some faculty from the union’s bargaining unit and recommended that all ballots be counted. In the raw numbers cast in June, a majority of voters elected to form a union.

“Participation in the election was high, and all agree that it was fairly conducted,” said senior lecturer Amy Cooter. “The people have spoken, and so has the law. It is time to move forward.”

“This is a major milestone, not just for NTT faculty, but also for our tenured and tenure-track colleagues and the students we educate,” explains Terrie Spetalnick, a lecturer. “Forming our union will give us a voice in matters that affect us and help ensure fair and transparent processes.”

State and Metro elected officials, local faith and community leaders, and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders have all spoken in support of the faculty’s right to form a union. Vanderbilt has until November 2 to appeal the decision of the NLRB hearing officer.


The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) unites 2 million diverse members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. SEIU Local 205 represents workers in the public and private sector across the great state of Tennessee.


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Vanderbilt Non-Tenured Faculty Vote on Union!

The Vanderbilt University Organizing Committee (Feb, 2017)

The Vanderbilt University Organizing Committee (Feb, 2017)

After a mail-ballot vote, non-tenured teaching faculty at Vanderbilt University in Nashville voted on whether to become a part of SEIU Local 205. Votes were counted at the NLRB office on June 6 and there were challenged ballots on both sides. Final election results are still indeterminate, but the majority of faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences remained positive and expected their new union to be made official after all challenges to the vote have been resolved.

“With the vote count today, faculty from the Vanderbilt College of Arts & Sciences achieved a major milestone,” said Terrie Spetalnick, a Lecturer in Sociology. “After the challenges to our vote are resolved, we will celebrate and begin advocating for improvements for our students and our profession with a stronger voice.”

Until all challenges are settled, Vanderbilt faculty are determined to keep building their union, and will continue to organize to raise standards on campus.

“Over the past several months, many Vanderbilt non-tenure-eligible faculty members worked very hard to build a real voice for non-tenure-eligible faculty, and to join thousands of others around the country who are uniting in SEIU Faculty Forward,” said M.L. Sandoz, a Senior Lecturer in Communication Studies. “The results are not yet known, but that doesn’t change the course we are on. We’ll keep fighting and build our union. We’re resolved to change the status quo by working with other faculty to raise standards across the area and the nation.”

Faculty across Nashville and the nation are continuing to rally around the fast-growing union movement that is dramatically changing the higher education landscape. Faculty at 46 colleges and universities across the country have formed unions with SEIU in the last three years, including full and part-time contingent faculty at Northwestern University, Loyola University of Chicago, the University of Southern California, Saint Louis University and Boston University.

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Bernie Sanders Supports Vanderbilt Unionization!

The most popular politician in America, Senator Bernie Sanders, has written a letter in support of Vanderbilt faculty who are seeking to organize a union with SEIU. Read Senator Sanders’ letter here.

Recently, the NLRB issued a decision directing an election at Vanderbilt among certain eligible non-tenure-track faculty. That election is set to be held by mail ballot beginning on May 15.

Ballots will be counted on June 6. Stay tuned to our Facebook page for the latest updates.


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Vanderbilt Faculty Petitions NLRB to Form Union with SEIU Local 205!

The Vanderbilt University Organizing Committee.

The Vanderbilt University Organizing Committee.

In a landmark development, non-tenure-eligible faculty who teach at Vanderbilt University filed a petition Thursday with the National Labor Relations Board for a union election to join SEIU Local 205 as part of a national campaign to raise standards in higher education.

Vanderbilt faculty are continuing to build support while taking an important step toward a vote to join more than 15,000 faculty from dozens of other colleges and universities who have joined together at their workplace SEIU in just the past three years, including Duke University and the University of Chicago.

“I believe forming a union is the only way to guarantee fairness and transparency for the ever-growing number of non-tenure eligible faculty at Vanderbilt,” said Amy Cooter, a senior lecturer. “By coming together, we can have a voice on issues that affect us all.”

Many of the Vanderbilt University faculty are off the tenure track. This trend reflects a national crisis in higher education that has led to broad concern over issues like the marginalization of teaching, academic isolation and job stability that affects students.

Today’s filing comes at a moment when people across the country – fed up with a system that’s rigged against them – are speaking out for good jobs, the opportunity for a better life for their families, and a real voice in our economy and democracy. Uniting in a strong worker organization like SEIU Local 205 is a way for Vandy’s non-tenure-track faculty to stand up and speak up for the real change they want and need.

Together, faculty from coast to coast are building support to form their union with SEIU, and creating a movement to address the crisis in higher education and the declining standards that endanger the profession.

Already, leaders in the community are stepping forward to stand in solidarity with Vandy faculty in their effort to form a union, including Nashville’s vice mayor David Briley and the American Federation of Musicians.

Read the story by Nashville Public Radio

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