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Drive to Unionize Bentley U. Adjuncts Succeeds on Second Try

Sixteen months after rejecting the idea by a narrow margin, adjunct instructors at Bentley University have overwhelmingly voted to form a union affiliated with the Service Employees International Union.

The vote at the private college in Waltham, Mass., was 108 to 42. The union chapter is the latest of several formed in an SEIU campaign to organize adjunct faculty members at private colleges throughout the Boston area. Bentley’s administration, which had opposed the unionization of adjuncts there, issued a statement in which it accepted the election results, tallied on Thursday, and pledged to bargain with the union in good faith.

The election outcome represents a comeback for the union’s organizers, who suffered a surprise rejection at Bentley in October 2013, when adjuncts whom they had assumed to be strongly in favor of unionization instead turned it down by a 100-to-98 vote. The organizers blamed their defeat partly on that fall’s federal-government shutdown, which delayed ballot counting and allowed for a wave of last-minute voting that they perceived as mobilized by union opponents.

A business school with a strong liberal-arts focus, Bentley saw opposition to unionization among many adjuncts in business-related fields who held jobs with local companies and did not rely on income from teaching. Over all, the university has about 270 adjunct instructors, who account for about 40 percent of Bentley’s faculty and teach just over a fourth of its classes.

The Bentley vote represent the SEIU’s second major victory this month in metropolitan Boston. Part-time instructors at Boston University overwhelmingly voted three weeks ago in favor of unionization. Adjuncts at nearby Tufts University, Northeastern University, and Lesley University have also voted to unionize with the SEIU.

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