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Union says Northwestern won't bargain, is violating labor laws

The newly formed union representing nontenure-track faculty at Northwestern University is accusing the school of violating labor laws by refusing to bargain over a first contract.

The charge, filed Thursday with the National Labor Relations Board, came about seven weeks after the school's provost sent a letter to faculty members arguing the outcome of the vote to form the union was not final.

Since then, Northwestern has refused to bargain with the union, according to the charge, which the union provided to the Tribune.

"We met with the administration (last week) and asked them what their proposal was for moving forward, and they had none," said Jackson Bartlett, a visiting assistant professor of sociology. "We were under the impression we were in the room to come up with an agreement, and that did not happen."

The vote to form the Northwestern University Non-Tenure Eligible Faculty Union, part of Service Employees International Union Local 73, was held in 2016, but results were delayed due to a large number of contested ballots. The remaining ballots were counted in May, and the majority favored the union. The NLRB certified the election soon after.

There were 229 votes in favor of unionizing and 219 votes opposed, according to the NLRB. Twenty-five votes were challenged.

The university appealed the challenged ballots with the NLRB, which has not yet ruled on the matter.

"Should the final results of this election indicate a majority of the non-tenure eligible faculty voted for a union, we are committed to forming a productive relationship with this new union as well," Provost Jonathan Holloway said in a message to faculty members Thursday. "We are ready to move forward, no matter the outcome, and hope this matter can be promptly concluded."

The union is working to determine its priorities for a contract, Bartlett said.

"We know there are nontenure-eligible faculty who have great offers, make a lot of money, have longer-term contracts, and then there are those that don't," he said. "One of the things we want to do is create a higher baseline."

The union includes about 650 part- and full-time adjuncts and faculty members at seven of Northwestern's colleges and schools. It does not cover faculty members at the medical, law or business schools.

SEIU Local 73 also represents part-time and nontenured full-time instructors at Loyola University Chicago and the University of Chicago.

amarotti@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @AllyMarotti

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