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NLRB: PLU Unionization Vote Tally Unclear With 38 Contested Ballots


Note: PLU holds the license for KPLU, where on-air staff are represented by the union SAG-AFTRA.

The National Labor Relations Board has released the result of a vote by adjunct and part-time faculty at Pacific Lutheran University on whether to unionize.

There were 30 votes for union representation, 54 votes against representation and 38 challenged ballots, the NLRB said.

Some of the ballots were challenged by PLU and the rest challenged by the Service Employees International Union. 

Most of the ballots challenged by PLU were those that had been postmarked Oct. 17, 2013 — past NLRB's voting deadline of Oct. 10, a PLU spokesperson said. However, due to the federal government shutdown that lasted from Oct. 1 until Oct. 16, there is no way to ensure the votes were cast by the deadline, the spokesperson said.
The votes had been impounded after the university appealed faculty members’ right to organize. The NLRB rejected the appeal, however, prompting the vote count to move forward.

PLU had argued in part that, as a religious school, it is exempt from the National Labor Relations Act, which safeguards collective bargaining rights for most private-sector employees.

But late last month, NLRB said the university is not exempt, and it established a new standard for determining who is: Faculty members keep their right to organize unless they have clear religious duties.

PLU had also argued that full-time contingent faculty are managers, and therefore not eligible to be part of a collective bargaining unit. The labor board was not convinced.

The board’s ruling was a victory for faculty both at PLU and other religiously-affiliated schools who wish to organize.

If the final vote tally supports union representation, PLU faculty members plan to bargain for better wages, working conditions and representation.