Faculty Vote on Union - FAQs
Q. Who Is Eligible to Vote in the Union Election?
A. The following individuals are eligible to vote in the election. This group is referred to by the NLRB as the “bargaining unit.”
All full time faculty employed by the employer at its Washington, DC campus appointed to non-tenure track positions (i.e. positions for which they will not be considered for tenured appointments following a probationary period) who hold any of the following titles or status: Temporary status, Career Status, Lecturer, Instructor, Master Instructor, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Research Professor and Professor.
According to the University’s calculation, there are approximately 129 non-tenure track full-time faculty eligible to vote in the election.
Q. Who is Excluded from Participating in the Election?
A. All tenure-track faculty, visiting faculty, contract faculty, faculty whose primary responsibilities include clinical supervision and who are required to maintain professional licenses, faculty in the schools of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences, Dentistry, Medicine, Pharmacy, Divinity, Business and Law; Deans, Provosts, Administrators, Program Coordinators, Program Directors, Department Chairs, Associate Department Chairs, employees teaching non-credit courses; and all other employees of the University, including managers, confidential employees, guards and supervisors as defined by the National Labor Relations Act.
Q. Why Are So Many Non-Tenure Track Full-Time Faculty Excluded from the Vote?
A. Although there are a large number of non-tenure track full-time faculty in the various schools and colleges of Howard University, the union chose only to focus on a limited number of them. The reason for this may be that the union felt it would not have support among the full-time non-tenure track faculty at the other schools and colleges.
Q. What is SEIU Local 500’s experience representing non-tenure track full-time faculty?
A. SEIU Local 500 (“the Union”) currently represents the University’s part-time adjunct faculty. According to the contracts listed on its website, www.seiu500.org, the Union only represents part-time faculty in the DC area. It does not appear that this union has any experience representing full-time faculty. You should think carefully about whether or not it makes sense to turn your terms and conditions of employment over to a union with no proven track record of representing full-time faculty. You should also ask who would actually be doing the negotiating for the union? What is their experience? What is their familiarity with the concerns of non-tenure track full-time faculty at Howard?
Q. What Are the Details of the Election?
A. The election will be held in the West Ballroom in the Blackburn Center on Wednesday, November 29 and Thursday, November 30, 2017, during the following hours:
7:00 am – 8:00 am
11:00 am -1:00 pm
4:00 pm -5:30 pm
Eligible voters should come to Blackburn Center during one of the voting periods and follow the signs to the voting room. An agent of the NLRB will ask you to identify yourself and will give you a ballot. There will be a private space to vote. The ballots will be counted after the final voting session on November 30.
Q. How is the Outcome of the Election Determined?
A. The outcome is determined by a majority of votes cast. If only a small number of faculty vote, a majority of that group will determine the outcome for everyone in the bargaining unit, and for all future full-time non-tenure track faculty hired into the bargaining unit. That is why it is critically important for all voters to participate. A failure to vote because you are not interested in union representation could result in a victory for the union. If you are not interested in the Union, you should show-up and vote no as opposed to not voting at all.
Q. If I signed a card or petition to enable the Union to petition the NLRB to conduct the election, do I still have to vote for the union?
A. No. You have the legal right to vote for or against the union, regardless of whether you signed a card or petition. The election is by secret ballot, and nobody will know how you voted.
Q. Am I still allowed to vote if the union never told me about its organizing campaign?
A. Yes, as long as you are in the group of eligible voters identified above. If you have received a communication from the Provost indicating you are an eligible voter, you have the right to vote. If no one from the union told you that it was seeking to represent non-tenure track faculty or shared with you personally information about the union, that may be a reason for you to consider whether voting for the union is in your interests.
Q. Can the union contact me directly?
A. Yes. Federal law required the University to give the union your name and contact information, including your home telephone number as well as your cell phone number. We were not allowed to treat that information as confidential. The union is free to contact you before the election. If you do not want to be contacted by union organizers, you can tell them so when they reach out to you.
Q. If we vote for a union and don’t like it, can we get rid of the union?
A. Not in the first year. And, after the first year it is possible to decertify the Union but this is not accomplished easily. It requires petitioning the NLRB to conduct an election where the majority of employees eligible to vote must vote to decertify the Union. Keep in mind that an active collective-bargaining agreement can bar a petition to decertify a union. A decertification process is very complicated and is usually opposed by any union. Therefore, the notion that “trying it out” is a good idea does not work in reality.
Q. If the union is selected, may I personally opt out?
A. No. If the Union wins this election, it becomes the legal representative of all full-time non-tenure track faculty (except for those excluded), whether or not you agree. Although you would not be required to join the Union, you would be required to pay at least a core fee to the Union.
Q. What Does “Exclusive Representation” Mean?
A. When a union is selected to represent a bargaining unit, it legally becomes the “exclusive representative” of that group – in this case consisting of approximately 129 non-tenure track full-time faculty. That means that the union, and only the union, can negotiate with the University about the wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment of members of the bargaining unit. If you were to select a union, your individual right to negotiate about your own wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment with your Deans and Department Chairs could be eliminated and the union would be your only spokesperson. You should think carefully whether you want to give up your individual rights to a third party.
Q. If the Union wins the election, will non-tenure track full-time faculty have to join the Union and pay union dues or core fees?
A. Most unions demand that the employees they represent become full-fledged dues paying union members or, instead, pay the union a “core fee” (aka “agency fee”) in order to keep their jobs with their employer. That is precisely what SEIU Local 500 did with the adjunct contract. This means that if you were to vote for representation by SEIU Local 500 and the parties negotiated a contract, you would likely be required to pay either full dues or core fees to the Union in order to keep your job, regardless of what the Union accomplishes for you.
Q. How much does the Union charge for dues and core fees?
A. We do not know how much Local 500 would charge for dues for full-time faculty, since it currently does not represent any. However, we have learned that Local 500 charges the highest dues rates of all of its contracts in the DC area to Howard’s adjuncts. By my calculation, the dues charged to Howard’s adjuncts amounts to approximately 8% of their pay from Howard -- and that’s for the lowest paid adjuncts! That is an extraordinary amount for the union to be charging our adjuncts. One way to look at it is that the adjuncts who may have received modest wage increases as a result of their union contract have also lost money by virtue of the union’s dues and agency fee requirements.
Q. If the Union wins the election, will faculty be guaranteed improvements in pay, benefits or job security?
A. No. There are no guarantees in collective bargaining, nor is there a time limit to bargaining. The process of collective bargaining involves good faith negotiation over proposals by both sides. The law does not require the University to agree to any demands of the union. The outcome of bargaining is uncertain.
Q. What happens if the parties cannot reach an agreement during collective bargaining?
A. If the parties cannot agree on the terms of a contract, there are a number of options. They can continue bargaining; they can retain current terms and conditions of employment; or the union can call a strike. Strikes, of course, are disruptive for all involved, and would adversely affect our students. However, if the union called a strike, no faculty member would be forced to strike. The University would welcome all faculty who wanted to continue to work.
Q. What is the University’s position on this election?
A. The University believes that selecting a union to be the exclusive spokesperson for our non-tenure track full-time faculty would disrupt the collegial nature of our relationship with our faculty, interfere with University governance, and potentially undermine the shared values that are an integral part of the Howard community that has been painstakingly established over the past 150 years. We do not believe Local 500 has any demonstrated experience representing full-time faculty anywhere, and therefore there is no assurance that the union understands the faculty’s concerns or that it has any familiarity with Howard’s history, traditions and organization. We are very concerned with Local 500’s history of charging what we believe to be unreasonably high dues to our adjunct faculty, without any commensurate improvements in their terms and conditions of employment. This seems quite unfair to us.