Student groups rally at The Rock to support non-tenure eligible faculty union


Brian Meng/The Daily Northwestern

Doctoral student Zach Angulo, representing Northwestern Graduate Workers, speaks at the rally. He said efforts to organize in higher education “hold a special place in our heart.”

Erica Snow , Campus Editor

About 50 people gathered at The Rock on Tuesday to rally for non-tenure eligible faculty, calling on the University to bargain with their union and raise wages.

Representatives from several student groups — including Rainbow Alliance, ZOOZ, Asian Pacific American Coalition and For Members Only — spoke at the rally to show support for non-tenure eligible faculty members.

Northwestern has refused to bargain with the group due to several contested ballots from a June 2016 election. Majority support for joining Service Employees International Union was confirmed in May, but the University will not begin negotiations until the SEIU withdraws its objections to 25 uncounted ballots.

According to a National Labor Relations Board document obtained by The Daily, the uncounted ballots could play a decisive role in the election — 229 non-tenure eligible faculty voted in favor of joining SEIU, and 219 voted against it. The union filed unfair labor charges against the University in September for its refusal to bargain.

Visiting sociology Prof. Jackson Bartlett told The Daily the union is gaining allies on campus.

“Now we’re moving together as a community, whereas before we were moving forward as a union,” Bartlett said. “This is a metropolitan movement.”

University spokesman Al Cubbage told The Daily in an email that the University “has sought to have all voices heard,” and reiterated that the University wants to ensure all uncounted ballots are opened.

“The NLRB process will continue until rulings are finalized,” Cubbage said. “Once they are, the University will move forward and honor those rulings.”

Jade Mitchell, FMO’s assistant vice coordinator of programming, represented the group at the rally. The Communication senior said she wanted to support non-tenure eligible faculty, some of whom went into debt to attend graduate school and become credentialed to teach.

She added that NU has a responsibility to ensure its employees are “above the poverty line.”

“The fact that (some faculty) can’t even pay their bills or eat at night is absolutely ridiculous,” Mitchell said. “I see a really nice athletic facility up north that probably could’ve put food in a lot of people’s mouths at this point.”

Weinberg sophomore Seri Lee, an APAC member, attended the rally and told The Daily that some of her best professors were ineligible for tenure.

Lee said students can put pressure on University administrators to treat professors more fairly.

“On top of teaching us and mentoring us, faculty have to also provide emotional support and labor for students of color and other marginalized groups on this campus who the University otherwise neglects,” Lee said. “The academic well-being of students rests on the emotional, financial and fiscal well-being of faculty members.”

The non-tenure eligible faculty union received support not just from undergraduates, but from graduate students too. Doctoral student Zach Angulo told The Daily he came to represent Northwestern Graduate Workers, which aims to help graduate students unionize.

He said efforts to organize in higher education “hold a special place in our heart.”

“As graduate students at Northwestern, it’s very likely that later, after we’re done with our program, we may very well end up as adjunct faculty at different institutions,” Angulo said. “Us showing support now is showing number one that we’re not just connected by our values, but number two, we’re connected by our interests.”

Bartlett — the visiting sociology professor — said the “end goal” is to begin bargaining with the University.

“As fun as rallies are, we don’t want to do this forever,” Bartlett said. “If tomorrow they said, ‘Alright, we want to start the process,’ we’re there. We’re ready.”

Elizabeth Byrne contributed reporting.

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Twitter: @ericasnoww