Faculty Union charges USC with unfair labor practices

Faculty at the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences have filed charges against USC with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing the University of unfair labor practices and asking for a delay in the upcoming unionization vote.

Joseph Chen | Daily Trojan Forward march · USC Faculty Forward, a precursor to the Faculty Union, holds a rally on campus in April 2015 to encourage support for higher wages and better benefits for the University’s non-tenure track faculty.

Joseph Chen | Daily Trojan
Forward march · USC Faculty Forward, a precursor to the Faculty Union, holds a rally on campus in April 2015 to encourage support for higher wages and better benefits for the University’s non-tenure track faculty.

In an email sent on Friday afternoon, the USC Faculty Union — a group of non-tenure track faculty working to join the Service Employees International Union Local 721 — stated that USC’s “business model of education” had left them with low wages and few benefits, a problem that could be remedied by joining a labor union.

Efforts to unionize, however, have been met with resistance from the University, resulting in the charges that were filed Friday by SEIU Local 721 on behalf of USC faculty, according to the email.

Adjunct faculty at the Roski School of Art and Design and the USC International Academy voted to join SEIU Local 721 in February, but the Dornsife vote resulted in a loss for pro-union organizers. However, following an appeal by the USC Faculty Union, the National Labor Relations Board ruled in April that the University’s actions prior to the vote — including a series of emails sent out by Provost Michael Quick, which discouraged faculty members from supporting unionization — made the results of the vote invalid.

“Even after a landslide unionization victory in Roski, USC has maintained an aggressive anti-union stance — refusing to recognize the Roski union victory and promising to appeal their union vote to the highest court, flooding the National Labor Relations Board with frivolous appeals aimed at silencing our collective voice,” the Faculty Union wrote in the email. “In Dornsife, the University’s blatant lawbreaking during the unionization process led the Federal government to throw out the election results altogether and call for a new vote.”

Andrea Parra, an associate professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and one of the organizers of the Faculty Union, hopes that bringing charges against USC will result in a statement of neutrality from the University, which so far has actively tried to prevent unionization on campus.

“[The University’s] campaign of fear and intimidation towards faculty will only intensify if left unchecked — together we are holding the University accountable, and ensuring that faculty can consider the question of unionization through a fair and democratic process free from University interference,” Parra wrote in an email to the Daily Trojan. “Despite our repeated attempts to hold the University accountable for its continued law breaking, University administrators sent out another communication encouraging faculty to vote against the union just last week.”

Parra said that USC’s anti-union stance has also contributed to the Faculty Union’s actions against the University.

“For instance, USC administration continues to charge that contingent faculty are ‘managers’ due to the service component of their contracts, and are therefore precluded from organizing a union,” Parra said.

The Faculty Union has asked that the Dornsife vote be delayed “to protect free and fair elections for workers,” according to the email. The vote was initially supposed to take place within several weeks of the original NLRB ruling in April, but the NLRB will set the new date of the vote if the charges are upheld, according to Parra.

The University, however, has stated that the request to delay the vote will not significantly change the outcome and believes that the initial results should be respected.

“Local 721 has not told us what charges they filed with the NLRB,” Quick said in an email to the Daily Trojan. “We are acting in good faith and lawfully. We believe Dornsife faculty should have the chance to make their will known. It seems to us that Local 721 would not be trying to block the election if they thought the faculty majority supports them.”

The NLRB ruling in April stated that pay raises offered in the week prior to the unionization vote, as well as statements implying that faculty would no longer be able to participate in governance, “[created] a general atmosphere of fear making a free election impossible.” The University has disputed this report on the basis that Quick’s statements about faculty governance were meant to explain to faculty what would occur were they to vote for unionization.