After enduring objections by Elon University’s administration on the results of the faculty’s election for a union, Elon faculty stand in victory thanks to this week’s recommendation by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) hearing officer to overrule all objections submitted by the administration to contest the election results.
On March 12, adjunct professors at Elon University in Alamance County, North Carolina voted to form their union with SEIU Workers United Southern Region. The faculty voted overwhelmingly to unionize. The administration’s previous attempt to classify the adjuncts as ineligible for a union was rejected by the NLRB.
“I am thrilled with the NLRB’s recommendation to uphold the results of the democratic election where the adjunct faculty of Elon University overwhelmingly voted to form a union,” said Catherine Bush, assistant professor of Biology. “ Our entire community looks now to our leadership to honor Elon’s stated mission to ‘encourage freedom of thought and liberty of conscience.’ We are ready to begin productive negotiations that will lead to improvements in our working conditions and our students’ learning environments. The issues that adjunct faculty face here at Elon are occurring nationwide – Elon has an opportunity right now to be a leader yet again in higher education.”
Nearly half of Elon faculty are non-tenure track, meaning they have little to no job security. Elon faculty’s campaign for a union is part of a growing union movement of academics in the South and across the country. It comes nearly two years after non-tenure track faculty at Duke University won an average pay increase of 14% across departments, longer term contracts and assurances of course continuity. Duke faculty’s vote to unionize in 2016 was the first faculty union election at a private university in the South in decades. After their election, Duke did not challenge the election process and immediately moved to bargain.
Faculty are now urging Elon to begin the collective bargaining process right away and cease the spending of University resources to overturn a democratic election.
“I am pleased to hear that our vote has been recognized as the legitimate democratic process that it was,” said Sarah Bloesch, adjunct assistant professor of Religious Studies.“As we move into summer and many of us will stop receiving paychecks, the time to negotiate for stability in our lives and recognition for our work that does not stop between semesters cannot come fast enough.”
The win at Elon is a continuation of the growing labor movement in North Carolina, which is often attacked by corporations with extensive anti-union tactics, unlawful labor practices and intimidation of workers by bosses.