Non-Tenure Track Unionization

Information on non-tenure track unionization at Wellesley College

Following a secret ballot NLRB election in January 2024, a group of Wellesley’s non-tenure track faculty (NTT) voted to unionize as Wellesley Organized Academic Workers (WOAW), affiliated with the United Auto Workers (UAW). This means that WOAW-UAW is now the exclusive representative for these NTT faculty on all matters of wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. 

This page will also serve as an archive of materials the College shared in advance of the election.

Past communications



We invite you to submit any questions. We will be posting responses below.


National Labor Relations Board

What is the National Labor Relations Board?

The NLRB is an independent federal agency charged with enforcing the National Labor Relations Act, which guarantees the right of most private sector employees to organize, to engage in group efforts to improve their wages and working conditions, to determine whether to have unions as their bargaining representative, to engage in collective bargaining, and to refrain from any of these activities.

What is the NLRB’s role during a unionization effort?

An election to form a union is run by the NLRB, according to the agency’s rules and procedures. Each side is allowed an observer during the election. The date, time, and place of the election are determined by the NLRB’s regional director for the area where the election is to take place, following input from the parties.

United Autoworkers Union

What is the United Auto Workers?

The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, commonly known as the United Auto Workers (UAW), is one of the country’s largest labor unions and is best known for representing workers in the automotive industry. It is headquartered in Detroit. A group of non-tenure track faculty who are interested in unionization have chosen to affiliate with the UAW under the name of Wellesley Organized Academic Workers-UAW (WOAW-UAW).

The Election Process

What is the process for forming a union, and where are we in that process?

Employees seeking to form a union must first file an election petition with the NLRB, which the Wellesley Organized Academic Workers-UAW, a group of non-tenure track faculty seeking to start a union, did on November 29, 2023. As part of the petition process, the WOAW-UAW was required to demonstrate that at least 30% of the members of the proposed bargaining unit supported the election petition. This is usually done using authorization cards or a petition signed by employees. By law, the College has not seen and will not get to see the cards the WOAW-UAW filed to support its petition.

The petition has now been processed by the NLRB and the details of an election have been set.

What happens now that the petition has been filed?

First, it must be determined whether the proposed bargaining unit is legally appropriate. There were some disagreements on the scope of the unit originally sought by the WOAW-UAW. However, following consultation between the WOAW-UAW and the College, an agreement was reached on the definition of the voting unit, with clarity as to the inclusion and exclusion of various positions from the unit. In addition, the parties have now agreed upon dates for the election (January 29 and 30) in which eligible voters can decide whether or not they want to be represented by the WOAW-UAW for the purposes of bargaining over wages, hours and other terms of employment.

If the union is elected as the representative, can individual faculty in the bargaining unit or groups of faculty in the bargaining unit opt out of the unit and not be represented by the union?

No. If the union is elected, by law the union will represent everyone in the bargaining unit. No individual faculty member or group of such faculty can choose to leave the bargaining unit. The union will be the exclusive representative of everyone in the bargaining unit, whether they voted for or against the union or abstained from voting.

Who would conduct an election, and where would it be held?

An agent of the NLRB would conduct the election. The election has now been set for January 29 and 30 between the hours of 11:00 am to 1:00 pm at the Alumnae Ballroom in the Diana Chapman Walsh Alumnae Hall. As required by the NLRB, a contact list including the names, home addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of the eligible voters has been created in light of the parties’ agreement on the voting unit and will be sent to the union. Voting location and times will be posted prior to the election. The election will be held in person on campus as noted above. Both the union and the College will be allowed to have an observer present during voting and during the counting of ballots.

Would it be a secret ballot election?

Yes. Eligible voters would enter the voting area, receive a ballot from the NLRB agent, simply check off a yes or no on the ballot to indicate whether they want the union to be their exclusive representative, and place their ballot in the voting box the NLRB agents would bring with them. Neither the College nor the union would know how a faculty member voted.

If I signed a union card previously, am I obligated to vote for the union in the election?

No. If you signed a union card, you are still free to vote against the union in the election. This will be a secret ballot election, and you will not be bound by anything you signed in the past.

If I did not sign a union card previously, am I obligated to vote “no” in a union election?

No. If you did not sign a union card, you may still vote for the union in the election. All members of the collective bargaining unit are allowed and encouraged to vote in the election. 

How would the outcome of the election be determined?

The outcome would be determined by a majority of those who vote.

If the union receives a majority of votes cast at the election, the NLRB will certify the union as the exclusive collective bargaining representative for the eligible non-tenure track faculty. If the union vote fails, employees cannot file another election petition for the same unit for at least one year.

How does the Wellesley College administration plan to maintain neutrality during the election process?

The College believes this decision is up to the faculty encompassed in the voting unit. Every employee has the right to support or not support the union and to express their point of view, and we will respect the outcome of the election. However, we also believe sharing facts and recognizing that there are different ways of interpreting them are essential steps to ensuring that faculty will be as fully informed as possible when they cast their ballots.

Union Membership

Who is eligible to vote?

As agreed upon by both the College and the WOAW-UAM, the following are eligible to vote in the election:

All full-time and regular part-time employees employed by Wellesley College at any of the Employer's facilities, regardless of funding source, in the following positions: faculty on term appointments, defined as visiting lecturers, lecturers, senior lecturers, adjunct assistant professors, distinguished visiting lecturers, visiting assistant professors, distinguished visiting associate professors, distinguished visiting professors, distinguished senior lecturers; instructors in science laboratory, and senior instructors in science laboratory; and fellows funded by the Andrew Mellon post-doctoral fellowship endowment.

Excluded from the unit and not eligible to vote:

  • Tenured and tenure-track faculty

  • All employees who are managerial and/or supervisory as defined in the Act, including director of the Writing Program; director of the Botanical Garden; director of the Child Study Center; director of theatre and theatre studies; curator of special collections; associate provost; co-chair of computer science; director of New England Arts & Architecture Program; director of Book Studies Program; co-chair of music; research scientists and administrators within the Wellesley Centers for Women;

  • All faculty in Physical Education Recreation & Athletics (PERA);

  • All other College employees, including but not limited to undergraduate student employees, post-doctoral workers/fellows (other than Andrew Mellon postdoctoral fellows); and supervisors and guards as defined in the Act.

If I have to be a member of the bargaining unit even if I’m opposed to the union, would I still have to pay union dues?

Every member of the bargaining unit would be required to join the union or to pay representational fees to the union that would be the equivalent of dues, as a condition of employment, if the union negotiates such a provision into the collective bargaining agreement. While this is not legally required and would be part of contract negotiations, most unions—including the UAW—argue forcefully for such a provision, and most collective bargaining agreements have such provisions. 

See, for example, this type of language as part of the UAW’s contingent faculty contract with Barnard College:



Section I - As a condition of employment, each Unit Member, as defined in Article I -Recognition, will become a member of the Union or pay an agency fee (a service charge as a contribution toward the cost of administration of this Agreement and representation by the Union) to the Union within the later of thirty-one (31) days of the ratification of this Agreement or thirty-one (31) days of the date the Unit Member first becomes an employee of the College.

See also the UAW’s contract for adjunct faculty at New York University:


A. All adjunct or part-time faculty who become employed by the University and covered by this Agreement and who fail voluntarily to acquire and maintain membership in the Union, shall be required as a condition of continued employment to pay to the Union each month, beginning no later than thirty-one (31) days after the date of their employment, or after the ratification of this Agreement, whichever is later, an Agency Fee (a service charge as a contribution toward the cost of administration of this Agreement and the representation of adjunct or part-time faculty). The amount of such Agency Fee shall be the equivalent to the amount uniformly required to be paid as dues and initiation fees by those who choose to become members of the Union.

If such a provision becomes part of the contract, then any faculty member who refuses to join or pay representational fees to the union would be subject to termination.

How much would WOAW-UAW faculty likely pay in union dues?

We do not know for sure, but UAW dues at other higher education institutions run between 1.44% to 2% of an employee’s annual compensation each year, subject to change by the union. For example, a faculty member who earned $70,000 a year would pay between $1,000 and $1,400 a year to the union as a condition of continued employment if a typical type of union shop provision were negotiated into the collective bargaining agreement. 

Can a union be removed if WOAW-UAW faculty are not satisfied with the contract?

Once a union is certified, it does not stand for reelection. A union can be removed only if faculty in the unit file a decertification petition with the NLRB accompanied by cards signed by at least 30% of the members of the bargaining unit. This cannot happen for at least a year after the election. If a collective bargaining agreement is reached, a decertification petition can be filed only during a very narrow window of time near the end of the agreement. Decertification petitions are very rare.

How will unionization impact the ability of non-tenure track faculty members to make individual requests from the College?

The WOAW-UAW would, by law, become the exclusive agent for all aspects of compensation and other terms and conditions of employment for all faculty in the bargaining unit. The College would no longer be able to modify compensation or working conditions or negotiate with individual members of the collective bargaining unit directly, or through any other body or committee, on such topics unless negotiated with the union or authorized by the collective bargaining agreement.

The actual language of the National Labor Relations Act can be found on the NLRB website. (Section 9(a) deals with exclusive representation.)

If the UAW is not voted in, the College and its non-tenure track faculty would continue to work together directly on matters relating to compensation, hours, and working conditions, as it has been doing for some time.

Collective Bargaining

What is collective bargaining?

Collective bargaining constitutes the negotiations between an employer and employees to reach agreement on a contract that covers wages, benefits, and other terms of employment. In the event of a union victory, the parties would begin the process of collective bargaining at some point to arrive at a master agreement.

Is there a deadline for reaching an agreement?

There is no calendar of events for bargaining, nor does the law require parties to meet a certain number of times or for a certain number of hours. Typically, first-time contracts are completed a year or more after the original affirmative vote to unionize. 

Are the parties obligated to reach an agreement?

Under the law, the parties are obligated to negotiate in good faith with the intent of reaching an agreement, but neither side is obligated to agree to any particular proposal or concession. For more details, refer to this link: Section 8(d) of the NLRB.

What are the parties required to bargain over?

Under the law, there are mandatory subjects for collective bargaining. These include items such as salary, benefits, workload, appointment length, reappointment and promotion procedures, evaluation procedures, union security clauses, leaves of absence, grievance and arbitration procedures, and workplace safety, but this is a non-exhaustive list.

Issues such as the role of faculty in the governance of the institution, the hiring of new faculty, faculty staffing levels, the determination of the curriculum, selection of administrators, student issues, and similar matters would usually be outside the bounds of mandatory subjects of bargaining, and the College would not have to negotiate over those items. 

Does bargaining automatically start with the current level of salary, benefits, and working conditions?

No. Bargaining does not necessarily begin with the status quo. The union would be free to submit proposals related to compensation, benefits, and working conditions to the College bargaining team, and the College will also submit proposals related to these matters.

Does the law guarantee that any particular provision go into a collective bargaining agreement?

No. There are no guaranteed provisions required by law. While there are certainly common provisions that end up in many contracts, such as grievance procedures and union security articles, all language and all compensation provisions must be mutually agreed upon by the parties.

Will the majority of shared governance stay the same if NTT faculty vote to unionize?

Wellesley is distinct from its peers in the degree to which non-tenure track faculty are involved in shared governance. The decision to unionize would require changes to our shared governance model because, by law, the union would become the exclusive agent of the unionized faculty on matters of wages, hours, and other terms of employment. Under federal labor law, it would be considered an unfair labor practice for the College to deal with any other group (such as the FIP Advisory Committee) on such matters if the union achieves exclusive representational status through an NLRB election.

Some other governance structures that do not involve wages, hours, or other terms and conditions of employment might stay the same, as the topics that those structures deal with are not subject to required bargaining with a union. Generally, participation in shared governance structures is not a topic on which the College is required to negotiate with the union, and even if it were, the National Labor Relations Act “does not compel either party to agree to a proposal or require the making of a concession” (Section 8(d)).

Would unionization change faculty governance over Reappointments and Promotions procedures or processes?

Should the union be voted in, the procedures for reappointment and promotion of non-tenure track faculty are potential subjects of bargaining. Either the College or the Union or both may choose to propose modifications to the current systems of review.  In light of that reality, we cannot say what the outcome may be in negotiating over such procedures, and the final result of such negotiations may very well affect the role of committees such as Reappointments and Promotions committees and the Committee for Faculty Appointments.

What happens if the parties reach an impasse?

The parties may use a mediator to help them resolve any disputed issues, but neither a mediator nor any other third party may resolve those issues for the parties. A union is free to use a strike as a means of trying to force an employer to agree to its provisions.

Background on Non-Tenure Track Faculty

How does the teaching load for non-tenure track faculty compare to that of other colleges?

Most full-time NTT faculty at Wellesley, with the exception of visiting lecturers, teach the equivalent of four courses per year. At many other schools, full-time NTT faculty are expected to teach five or (as at Barnard, for example) six courses per year.

It is important to consider Wellesley’s salaries for lecturers and ISLs in relation to teaching load. The average base salary for Wellesley full-time lecturers and ISLs in FY24 is $85,400, with 75% of full-time faculty teaching four courses.

What is the actual compensation for full-time professorial non-tenure track faculty?

During the last completed academic year (2022–2023), the actual average compensation for full-time lecturers and ISLs was $91,826. This salary comes with competitive benefits including health insurance, retirement benefits, professional development funds, and housing at below-market rates.

What is the average length of service for non-tenure track faculty at Wellesley?

Unlike some other institutions, Wellesley does not require lecturers or ISLs to leave after a specified period of time. Many choose to stay at the College; in fact, 43% of lecturers and ISLs have been at the College for more than 10 years, and 22% have been at the College for more than 20 years.

Has non-tenure track faculty pay increased over the past decade?

Yes. Between 2010 and 2020, continuing non-tenure track faculty received annual salary increases averaging 2.6%, which was above the rate of inflation in Boston (1.8%) and nationally (1.6%) during that same period. Additionally, in July 2020, faculty on term appointments hired in 2008 or later and instructors in science laboratory hired in 2007 or later received a 9% raise during the first year of the COVID pandemic when virtually all other salary increases were frozen. In July of 2022, over 70% of FIP faculty received raises of between 7.5% and 10% when other faculty (except those receiving a promotion or merit review) and all administration staff received a 5% increase.

Does the College employ more women non-tenure-track faculty members than men?

Yes. Wellesley employs more women than men in nearly every group of employees, including tenured faculty, administrative staff, and senior leadership. Nearly 60% of tenure track faculty are women, a much higher percentage than at most of our peer institutions. Nearly 70% of administrative staff are women. The ratio for non-tenure track faculty is consistent with this overall pattern.