After non-tenure eligible faculty at Northwestern asked students to support their right to bargain as a union, at least seven student groups have decided to organize a rally for Tuesday, visiting assistant professor of sociology Jackson Bartlett said.
“Students have a lot of power on campus, more than we do,” Bartlett said. “It may not always feel that way to students, but you guys are the tuition payers and sort of the customers of the University.”
The rally — called “Students for NU NTE Faculty Justice” — will be held at The Rock, and is co-sponsored by MEChA de Northwestern, Rainbow Alliance, For Members Only, ZOOZ and Student Action NU, according to a Monday news release from the union. Black Lives Matter NU and the Asian Pacific American Coalition are also sponsoring the rally, Bartlett told The Daily in an email.
Though faculty will speak at the rally, Bartlett said it is a student-driven event. The union has been reaching out to “allies” at other universities and people will be coming from all over Chicago, he said.
Rainbow Alliance co-president Emily Zaniker said the group’s executive board supports the non-tenure eligible faculty and their right to “livable working conditions.” The main goal of the rally and other student actions is to support the legality of the non-tenure eligible union and their right to bargain with the University, the Weinberg junior said.
“How the University treats faculty is a direct reflection of how faculty will interact with students in the classroom,” Zaniker said. “If the University is not treating non-tenure track eligible faculty fairly, that’s going to have an impact on their classrooms and on the student body.”
Non-tenure eligible faculty originally filed for an election to join Service Employees International Union in June 2016. SEIU challenged 25 of the ballots, and majority support for the union was not confirmed until May 2017.
The non-tenure eligible faculty filed unfair labor practice charges against NU in September because the University refuses to bargain with them.
In a September statement responding to the charges filed, Provost Jonathan Holloway said the University will not bargain with the union because some ballots remain uncounted.
“We have strong working relationships with unions that represent a number of Northwestern employees, and 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,” Holloway said in the statement.
Bartlett said the administration is “violating the law” by refusing to recognize the union. He said the union expected to be “at the bargaining table” by Fall Quarter, but since that has not happened, the alternative is to put pressure on the administration.
“Our end goal is to sit down with the administration and bargain our first contract,” Bartlett said. “Anything that we’re doing, anything we’re up to (and) anything we plan in the future is geared toward that goal, and only that goal.”
Many students don’t understand the “hierarchy” that exists among faculty members at NU, Zaniker said. Though student groups are also working to draft a letter of support for the union, the rally will be important to raising awareness and giving “a face to the cause,” she said.
FMO president Kasey Brown said the rally will amplify student voices, which could be powerful in influencing the University’s response.
While the unionization is a “faculty fight” on the surface, the Weinberg senior said it also impacts students’ learning. If non-tenure eligible faculty have to worry about things like paying their bills or finding childcare, she said, they won’t be able to put “110 percent” into teaching their classes.
“The end goal for us is to just see all faculty that are providing services to us being treated fairly; getting the compensation, tools or resources they deserve to have,” Brown said.
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