Full-time non-tenure track faculty protest for right to unionize

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Full-time non-tenure track faculty protest for right to unionize

Dylan C.Shen

Dylan C.Shen

Dylan C.Shen

Chris Butler

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Tension have risen between the Northeastern administration and the full-time non-tenure track faculty members as the administration has recently opposed the faculty’s efforts to hold an election to form a union.

On Nov. 15, full-time non-tenure track faculty marched from Centennial Common to President Joseph E. Aoun’s office to deliver an open letter requesting the right to elect whether or not to form a union.

“This is the beginning of a process that we hope will create enough pressure on the university to essentially say ‘yes’,” said Pete Fraunholtz, an assistant teaching professor of history.

Service Employees International Union Local 509, or SEIU, which is the Massachusetts union for human service workers and educators, organized the demonstration in part.

On Nov. 5, the full-time non-tenure track faculty submitted a signed petition to the National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB, stating they wanted to vote on whether or not to form a union.

The university responded to the petition deeming the faculty as managerial staff, who hold financial, admissions or curriculum development responsibilities.

“The university has come back and said they don’t agree that we even have the right to form a union because they consider us managers,” Fraunholtz said. “I have none of those [managerial responsibilities]. I never have. None of my colleagues here do.”

In an email sent to the faculty on Nov. 8 obtained by The News, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Debra L. Franko said that having SEIU represent the full-time non-tenure faculty would hinder the university’s One Faculty model, an initiative to ensure all full-time faculty have a role in shared university governance, as the union would exclude clinical faculty members, staff that fulfill specialized teaching or supervisory roles.

“Northeastern has worked hard over the last several years to build its One Faculty model,” Franko wrote. “Excluding some colleagues from the petition is inconsistent with One Faculty, and would splinter the faculty, undermine our shared sense of community, and hamper our collective work to enhance the role of full-time faculty in college and university governance.”

Additionally, Franko said having SEIU represent the faculty might hinder communication between them and the university.

“If SEIU becomes your exclusive representative, you may lose your ability to have a say in your employment terms through participation in governance committees or the Faculty Senate,” Franko said. “It would also make it more difficult for the university to communicate directly with you—on issues ranging from leading a Dialogues program to employment benefits.”

Renata Nyul, Northeastern’s vice president of communications, added in an email sent to The News on Nov. 16 that “the NLRB determines who will have the opportunity to vote, not the university.”

The open letter contained over 305 signatures supporting the faculty, said SEIU Local 509 Lead Organizer Ally Little. Nyul accepted the letter on Aoun’s behalf.

The full-time non-tenure track faculty revoked their petition to the NLRB on Nov. 14 after hearing the university’s response, noting that it would be unlikely the NLRB will vote in their favor.

“We withdrew our petition, knowing that there were hurdles ahead of us,” said Megan Piccirillo,  SEIU Local 509 Communications Director.

Fifth-year psychology major Gaby Thurston was among the two demonstrators who delivered the letter to Nyul, representing the Progressive Student Alliance.

“Without faculty, without [full-time non-tenure track faculty], there would be no university. And they invest so much of their time and labor into making this university function,” Thurston said. “It’s important for us to be aware of that and do everything we can.”

Overall, the full-time non-tenure track faculty said they feel proud of the work they have done so far.

“We always teach our students to work together, to get together to unite on common causes, and this is a way for the faculty to actually come together,” said Vaso Lykourinou, associate teaching professor of chemistry. “We want to make this university better. We want to make each other better.”

Correction: an earlier version of this story mistakenly named the full-time non-tenure track faculty, as well as mistakenly described the faculty’s position. The faculty members are the full-time non-tenure track faculty and the description has been removed.