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Union Vote Begins for Some PLU Faculty Members

Pacific Lutheran University

Disclosure: Pacific Lutheran University holds the license for KPLU, where on-air staff are affiliated with SAG-AFTRA.

Faculty members at Pacific Lutheran University begin voting Thursday on whether to unionize. It’s the result of a monthslong fight that has pitted PLU’s lecturers, adjunct professors and other non-tenure track instructors against the administration.

A group of faculty members has been pushing for this vote since spring, saying they say they get too little money and too little say over their working conditions. The university has opposed it all along, and it took a ruling from the National Labor Relations Board to break the logjam.

PLU Provost Steve Starkovich says the university has been working with the faculty to address their concerns and had hammered out several positive initiatives before the union drive put things on hold. He says introducing the union would put that progress at risk, and could polarize the university.

“This is about the role that a union is going to play in what has been a very collaborative environment. And I don’t see anything good about this. The administration doesn’t see anything good,” Said Starkovich.

Lecturer Jane Harty has been with the music department for more than three decades. She says the union drive is happening exactly because those talks with the university were not working.

“It’s just too little and too late. We would love it if we could work from the inside, but so far we do not have a seat at the table,” Harty said.

Harty says she believes a majority supports the union, but many have been afraid to speak up.

Contingent faculty teach about a third of the university’s credit hours. Their votes will be counted Oct. 10.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.