A group of 326 part-time and non-tenured full-time instructors at Loyola University Chicago’s College of Arts and Sciences voted to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73 last Wednesday. In early December the Harper Schmidt Fellows and a group of non-tenure track faculty at the University of Chicago voted to join the same SEIU Local.
Eligible faculty at Loyola voted 142–82 in favor of joining Local 73. Under National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rules, a majority vote determines the results of union elections, regardless of the number of votes cast.
Administrators at Loyola University Chicago had been pushing back against the unionization effort, saying that Loyola is a religious institution and should be “free from government entanglement,” according to an e-mail sent from Loyola spokesman Steven Christensen to The Huffington Post. The NLRB denied a petition from the University seeking religious exemption and ordered an election on December 28 for the Loyola faculty, according to HuffPost. Although faculty members voted to unionize, Loyola could refuse to bargain with the union, in which case the dispute would be sent to federal court.
The newly-unionized Loyola faculty members are the third group of non-tenure track faculty members to join Local 73 in the past two months, according to Local 73’s website.
The elections at Loyola and UChicago are the result of campaigns by Faculty Forward Chicago, an organizing effort run by SEIU that aims to increase union representation of faculty in higher education throughout the Chicago area. Faculty Forward Chicago is a regional subset of the nationwide Faculty Forward movement, which has led successful unionization efforts at 37 universities across the country since its founding in 2013, according to SEIU’s website.
Contingent members of faculty have cited a lack of job security, low pay, lack of benefits, and a lack of resources among their motivations for unionizing.
Since the vote, SEIU Local 73 has filed a separate petition for election to represent 12 instructors in Loyola’s English Language Learning Program, according to the Chicago Tribune. Faculty members in the program were excluded from the proposed bargaining unit during a hearing at NLRB’s Chicago headquarters in December at the request of the SEIU.