The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) placed a paid advertisement on page 2 of the Oct. 11 issue of The Mooring Mast about Pacific Lutheran University’s contingent faculty vote on whether or not they should form a union.
Faculty voted on Oct. 10, but their ballots have yet to be counted. Written in the form of an open letter by Pastor Philip Nesvig, a retired ELCA pastor and PLU alum, the ad stated that PLU administrators were blocking the count and causing the delay.
According to a letter sent out on behalf of the Office of the Provost and Human Resources Department to faculty members last Friday, the ballots have been received by the Seattle branch of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) but are impounded. They will remain so until the NLRB can review a pending appeal PLU made in September.
“We’re quite confident we’ll prevail on all of the issues NLRB said they’d consider,” Paul Drachler, SEIU’s lawyer for this case, said.
PLU had asked that the issue of NLRB’s jurisdiction over the university be reviewed, as well as requested that the NLRB reconsider its decision to include full-time contingent faculty in the bargaining unit.
“By accepting our request for review, the NLRB automatically — by their own rules — impounds the ballots until the review is completed,” Provost Steven Starkovich said.
The votes will be counted after the appeal has been heard or if PLU drops the appeal.
“PLU could settle this tomorrow if they rescinded the appeal,” Jane Harty, senior lecturer in music and contingent faculty member, said. “They do not have to follow through on the appeal.”
PLU is standing by its right to appeal as a valid part of the decision process.
“If the NLRB saw no merit in our position, they would not have accepted our request for review of the regional director’s decision,” Starkovich said.
The NLRB has been unable to begin the reviewing process due to the government shutdown, which rendered its offices inactive. “Even if there were to have been no review, there is no one at NLRB to count the ballots,” Starkovich said.
Although the shutdown has exacerbated the holdup, the vote is still delayed by the need to review the appeal.
“There is being some spin put on the situation. The government shutdown had little to do with the count,” Harty said.
While the government shutdown ended Wednesday night, there is no distinct timeframe in which the appeal will be heard or the vote will be counted.
“It could be a very long time or a shorter period. There’s no timetable,” Drachler said. “PLU is in control of whether those votes get counted.”
By withdrawing the appeal, the vote would be counted when the NLRB returns to full function. While the appeal stands, however, the NLRB must first review it before the votes can be tallied.
“We’re stuck,” Harty said. “The appeal could take years.” ◼︎