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December 09, 2015

Full-time professors at the Tufts University School of Medicine have taken the first step required to join a union (Courtesy of Tufts University School of Medicine)

As part-time and adjunct faculty members at colleges and universities throughout the country are coming together to unionize, full-time professors at the Tufts University School of Medicine are taking the first step to join the Service Employees International Union.

Tufts professors behind the push to unionize say the medical school needs to allow faculty to be more involved in strategic planning.

“Over the last few years, the faculty have seen some poor administrative decisions being made left, right, and center, without any real recourse to being able to affect them," said Dr. Karina Meiri, a professor of Developmental, Molecular and Chemical Biology at Tufts and one of the organizers. "We really need to have a situation where we have a seat at the table, especially when it comes to something like collective bargaining.”

Dr. Meire says she and her colleagues hope the university will not hinder the effort.

"Tufts has this huge reputation that we totally buy into of being an institution that is committed to social justice and committed to equity among people and we hope that they wouldn't stand in our way here,” she said.

The professor says other unions, like the American Federation of Teachers, don't have enough power in today's shifting higher education landscape, and that the SEIU appears to be better suited to represent professors at the School of Medicine.

"We feel like the SEIU has quite a lot to offer for us in terms of a union that seems to be quite forward looking. We want a union that will be willing to work with us to give us the kind of progressive union structure that we’re interested in," she said.

Earlier: Movement to Unionize Adjunct Faculty Gains Traction

The SEIU has been a leader in the movement to unionize part-time professors across the country, including at Tufts University, where adjunct professors organized in the fall of 2013. Full-time Tufts professors also voted to unionize with the SEIU earlier this year.

To begin the process for professors at the School of Medicine, the trade union is expected to file papers with the National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday afternoon. Under federal law, the Board now has eight days to rule whether the medical faculty qualify for representation.

Executive Director of Public Relations Kim Thurler tells WGBH News that Tufts will review the petition and develop an appropriate response.

"We value our faculty and the many contributions they make to the School of Medicine," Thurler wrote in an email.

UPDATE Wednesday, December 16: The SEIU filed its petition late on Friday afternoon, so the NLRB ruling won't come down until the beginning of January. Tufts professors had requested to postpone their hearing because of the holidays.

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