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Working Life
GWU trampling namesake's principles
(Published July 11, 2005)

By JOSLYN N. WILLIAMS

George Washington University, the District's largest private employer, recently thumbed its nose at democracy here in the nation's capital when it refused to recognize the new union of its adjunct faculty members. Surely, our nation's founding father is spinning like a top in his grave.

In October 2004, nearly 700 part-time GWU faculty, including adjunct professors, voted in a secret ballot election supervised by the U.S. National Labor Relations Board. The majority of them voted to be represented by a union, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 500, and the election was officially certified by the National Labor Relations Board on June 10.

Not long thereafter, the GWU administration, having lost both the union vote and an NLRB appeal, simply decided to ignore both. On June 29, GWU informed SEIU Local 500 that the university, based on an arcane and legalistic argument, would neither recognize nor negotiate with the union.

King George tried ignoring the will of the people several hundred years back, and George Washington had to help straighten him out.

"This action by George Washington University is unconscionable and undemocratic," said GWU adjunct professor and union supporter Christopher Lornell. "It's a blatant attempt by the university to interfere with the legal rights of employees to be represented by a union of our choosing. Our vote was a decision that was arrived at by a democratic vote in a government-supervised election."

Added Lewie Anderson, director of the SEIU Local 500 Representation Programs Department: "If George Washington University thinks they can flaunt the law and trample on the democratic rights of their employees, then they are sadly mistaken. The university's refusal to recognize the union is consistent with union-busting tactics at the worst anti-union employers. Their action is part of a strategy of endless delay and avoidance. The bottom line is, we fully expect George Washington University to respect the democratic vote of their employees and recognize the union they have chosen to represent them. We also expect them to come to the table and bargain in good faith as the law requires them to."

The union has filed an unfair labor practices charge with the National Labor Relations Board against George Washington University. SEIU Local 500 represents 10,000 members in the District of Columbia and Maryland (Montgomery County, Baltimore, Howard County and Anne Arundel County). Its members work in education, public service and community services.

DEFENDING DEFENSE WORKERS: Members of the United DOD Workers Coalition (UDWC) will hold a major rally July 12 at the U.S. Capitol in opposition to the ongoing assault against America's federal workforce. The event will highlight the much-touted National Security Personnel System (NSPS), an ideologically driven personnel policy that the Coalition says will have a negative effect on pay and working conditions for more than 700,000 Department of Defense (DOD) workers later this year.

The Bush administration's attacks on Defense Department workers and their collective bargaining rights, as well as the gutting of worker salaries, are not only inconsistent with traditional American values, but harmful to national security, says the coalition, which comprises dozens of unions representing DOD workers. The July 12 rally is scheduled for the west side of the Capitol building from noon to 1:30 p.m. Speakers will be announced on the UDWC Web site at www.uniteddodworkerscoalition.org as well as on the Metro Washington Council's Web site at www.dclabor.org.

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Williams is president of the Metro Washington Council, AFL-CIO. For the latest on the local labor movement, subscribe to the free UNION CITY e-zine at streetheat@dclabor.org.

Copyright 2005 The Common Denominator