Dear adjunct faculty,
After much discussion on both sides of the adjunct unionization question, the time has come to make your voice heard. Ballots will begin to arrive in your home mailboxes on June 15th and the voting period will continue through close of business on July 7, 2017. I want to remind you of three important housekeeping items:
As you carefully weigh the pros and cons of adjunct unionization, I also ask that you give serious consideration to the following:
As I consider the implications of this election for St. Kate’s as an institution, I can’t help but think about how it will impact all of you as individuals. I can say I have received a great deal of feedback over the last few weeks and nearly all of it opposes union representation. In fact, I received an email from one of your colleagues yesterday and I think it summarizes the majority sentiment:
"I absolutely would not want someone else speaking on my behalf. I absolutely, positively would not want someone else to speak on my behalf and have to pay them to do so."
I do hope the final results of this election reflect that statement. I encourage you to VOTE NO.
I came home to St. Kate’s because I am dedicated to our mission to educate women to lead and influence. I love our school, our students and our high-qualified educators. Please give me the opportunity to work with you directly, where together we can bring our shared strategy and vision to life. I will not let you down.
Here, as part of their commitment to remain clear and forthcoming throughout this election process, President Roloff and Dean Alan Silva address some of the key questions that have come up since the initial announcement.
The University’s Board of Trustees, administration and academic leadership believe that the best way to connect, communicate and collaborate with faculty is to work directly with them, not through a third party. Examples of what we like to call “direct progress through direct relationships” with our adjuncts include:
Aside from the work we’re already doing together, we need only look to peer private institutions such as the University of St. Thomas and Macalester College, whose adjunct faculty groups both decided it was in their best interest to work directly with each institution to ensure their voices are heard and needs met. And those relationships are working well. We have no reason to believe we can’t do the same thing at St. Kate’s.
We think it’s important to note that significant leadership changes took place over the past academic year, including my own transition into the presidency. I ask that you give me the needed time to fully assess our opportunities and challenges in this area and work with the leadership team to develop a strong plan for moving forward. We don’t believe that bringing in a union right now would help you or the University. What we do know is that the introduction of a union to engage in collective bargaining will add a layer of complexity to employment discussions, significantly slow decision processes, and will not guarantee any kind of forward movement on issues that adjunct faculty believe are beneficial to their positions. We ask that you give us the opportunity to roll up our sleeves together and work directly with one another.
We also think it’s important to state that introducing a collective-bargaining environment at St. Kate’s will fundamentally change the relationship between our adjunct part-time faculty and the University. We are concerned, and have historically witnessed, that this crucial relationship will become more adversarial than cooperative if adjunct unionization becomes a reality for us. Lack of accurate information, diverging faculty interests requiring representation, legal costs and the significant amount of time and resources taken away from the true mission of our work, create a distrustful and unproductive environment where not a lot of good work gets done. Dean Silva and I don’t want that for any of us.
All this said, I want to reiterate that we fully recognize the right of adjunct faculty to choose the path they believe will best support their interests. We are committed to an open and fair election process. And if unionization turns out to be the choice of our adjunct faculty, the University must respect that choice.
St. Catherine University is not substantially similar to the higher-education systems that have chosen to unionize in recent years. We believe our University is far more aligned with local institutions such as the University of St. Thomas and Macalester College where, in both cases, the adjunct faculty strongly rejected third-party intervention. At those two schools, adjunct faculty groups decided it was in their best interests to work directly with the administration in each institution to ensure their voices are heard and needs met and those relationships are working well. There is no reason to believe we cannot do the same here at St. Kate’s.
The union that petitioned to represent part-time adjunct faculty is the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 284. Local 284 is part of the national union organization that represents 2 million people working primarily in the healthcare, janitorial, and public-service fields (school employees, bus drivers, and child care providers). Nationally, SEIU maintains a “Faculty Forward” initiative to unionize adjunct faculty in certain locales, including the Twin Cities. The facts about SEIU’s focus on representing faculty fall short. Please consider:
Other than the fact that all faculty included in the union would be required to pay membership dues (fees), nothing. According to the union, the fees it charges to represent faculty are $75 per month or 2.1% of a faculty member’s salary, whichever is less. A faculty member charged $75 per month for membership dues will pay the SEIU $900 annually. Aside from that, there are no guarantees of any other changes. Despite what some may believe or promise, a collective bargaining agreement guarantees nothing for the employee unless the employer agrees to proposed or negotiated changes.
The collective-bargaining process can be extremely time consuming. Negotiating a contract with the union could take up to a year or longer, with ongoing meetings between the union, our administration and outside legal counsel. For an agreement to be reached, both sides would need to come to an understanding as to the terms and conditions of your employment with the University. Nothing ends up in a collective-bargaining agreement unless the University agrees to it. There would be no reason for St. Kate’s to accept changes to our faculty’s work experience that would interfere with our educational mission, autonomy, or faculty governance. Moreover, this University, like all other institutions of higher learning, already faces significant economic pressure to control tuition dollars and we would never agree to a contract that contains unsustainable financial provisions.
On Friday, May 26, 2017, the University received formal confirmation from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that an election has been scheduled for June 2017.
Generally, the group who is eligible to vote includes part-time, non-tenured and non-tenure-track faculty who teach credit courses or labs at the St. Paul, Minneapolis, and online campuses and who are identified by titles including adjunct faculty and lecturer.
In order to vote, an adjunct faculty member must either have been on the payroll as of May 19, 2017, OR taught a course in either the Fall 2016 semester, J-Term 2017 semester, or Spring 2017 semester.
The NLRB’s final language regarding eligible voters includes the proposed bargaining unit:
“All part time regular faculty who teach undergraduate or graduate-level credit-earning courses or labs who are non-tenure track faculty (including but not limited to the following titles: adjunct instructor, adjunct lecturer, adjunct professor, adjunct faculty, lecturer or instructor) teaching at St. Catherine University, located at 2004 Randolph Ave, St Paul, MN 55105, 601 25th Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55454, and online.”
Excluded from the proposed bargaining unit and from voting are:
“All administrators (including Deans, Assistant Deans, Associate Deans, Directors, Associate Directors, Assistant Directors, Provosts, Associate Provosts, Vice Presidents, Chairs, and Administrators, whether or not they have teaching assignments); any faculty member who holds an FTE position, visiting faculty, adjunct advisors, full-time tenured and non-tenured track faculty; Graduate Students (including those teaching courses in addition to being paid a stipend); all other employees at St. Catherine University (including those who teach a class or course and are separately compensated for such teaching); managers, confidential employees, office clerical employees, professional employees, guards, and supervisors as defined by the Act, as amended.”
The NLRB will mail a confidential official ballot on June 15, 2017, to the homes of those eligible to vote. Ballots must be received at the Minneapolis Regional Office of the NLRB by the close of business (4:30 p.m.) on July 7, 2017. Late ballots will not be counted. Voters are encouraged to allow sufficient delivery time when mailing their ballots.
Voters are required to notify the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board by Friday, June 23, 2017, if they have not received a mail ballot or they need a replacement ballot.
Ballots will be counted on Monday, July 10, 2017, at 10:30 a.m. at the Minneapolis Regional Office of the NLRB. The University will receive notification of the results at that time.
The NLRB will mail an official ballot on June 15, 2017, to the homes of those eligible to vote. Ballots must be received at the Minneapolis Regional Office of the NLRB by the close of business (4:30 p.m.) on July 7, 2017. Late ballots will not be counted. Thus, voters are encouraged to allow sufficient delivery time when they mail their ballots.
Voters are required to notify the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board by Friday, June 23, 2017, if they have not received a mail ballot or they need a replacement ballot. Ballots will be counted on Monday, July 10, 2017, at 10:30 a.m. at the Minneapolis Regional Office.
Along with your ballot you will receive an “Election Kit” explaining the details on how to cast your vote, as well as a return envelope. On the ballot there is only one question that you will be asked:
“Do you wish to be represented for purposes of collective bargaining by Service Employees International Union, Local 284?”
Your choices on the ballot will be “Yes” if you wish to be unionized, or “No” to continue without union control. You must choose one.
No. Regardless of whether you signed a union card or not, you are free to vote as you wish when you return your ballot.
The outcome of a union vote is decided by a simple majority of the votes cast. If only a small proportion of eligible voters cast votes, the decision of the majority of those who voted will still apply to the entire group. For example, if 200 faculty members are deemed eligible to vote and only 100 of those do so, with 51 voting in favor, all 200 will be in the bargaining unit and SEIU will represent them, regardless of the wishes of those that didn’t vote. What this really means is that your vote--no matter what you believe--is absolutely critical to this process. As I mentioned in my note last week, declining to vote is essentially letting others make your choice for you. If you receive a ballot, please exercise your right to vote.
No. There is no provision for individuals to “opt out” of the vote’s outcome, even if they did not vote or if they voted against the majority position of those who did. While it may be true, in the most technical sense, that no one is forced to “be a member of a union,” everyone included in the proposed bargaining unit will be represented by the union if it is voted in. All part-time, adjunct faculty are bound by the results of this election, regardless of whether they voted or not, and regardless of whether they wish to be represented by the union or not.
There is, however, a difference between being a member of a bargaining unit and being a member of a union. If the union is voted in, the SEIU might then insist that any labor contract include a “union security clause.” Such a provision would require that all included faculty join the union and pay full dues OR it might stipulate that, on an individual basis, faculty could elect not to join but pay instead an “agency fee” that might be 5-7% less than the full monthly dues for members. One or the other would be a requirement to remain employed at the University.
If adjunct faculty vote the union in, could they later decide they did not want to be represented by the union? What steps would be necessary to end union representation?
It is important to know that once voted in, a union is extremely difficult to remove. Under federal law, employees cannot attempt to vote out or “decertify” a union for at least one year following the union’s certification by the NLRB. If a collective- bargaining agreement is not reached during that the one-year period, the NLRB will only allow a new election to vote out the union if at least 30% of the bargaining unit sign cards in support for a new petition. Only if 50% or more of the voters in that election failed to still support the union would the group succeed in decertifying. If the University and the Union were to reach a collective-bargaining agreement during the one-year timeframe, the adjunct faculty cannot ask for a decertification election during the first three years of that agreement, except during a 30-day ”window period.” That window period begins 90 days and ends 60 days before the agreement expires.
Consequently, anyone who is vacillating on whether to vote in favor of the Union would be far better served by voting no at this time and giving the University the opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to addressing opportunities and challenges that faculty have brought forward. Within a collective-bargaining structure, collaborative and open conversations designed to achieve improvement become extremely restricted or cease all together. Changes in employment matters affecting adjuncts would need to be negotiated by costly third parties and again, would be negotiated in a way intended to address the entire group rather than the important individual constituencies to which you belong.
Yes. A union representative can contact you at work, including visiting your office, sending e-mails to your work e-mail, and calling your work phone. You have no obligation to talk to them, however.
Union representatives are not allowed to interrupt or interfere with your work. For example, union representatives should not seek to enter your classroom. In addition, if you ask a union representative to leave, they should do so.
Yes. Now that the election has been approved by the NLRB, federal law requires the University to provide SEIU Local 284 with your home address, along with your personal e-mail address, and personal cell phone and landline numbers if the University has that information.
It is not uncommon for union representatives to make visits to the homes of those whom they seek to recruit. It also is not uncommon for union representatives to send e-mails and make phone calls to those they wish to recruit. You are under no obligation to interact with union representatives. If you ask union representatives to leave your property, they should do so.
Over the next few weeks, University leadership will provide clear and accurate information to the voting group to explain the election process and to offer their perspective on the pros and cons of unionizing in our academic environment.