Frequently Asked Questions

What is a union?
A union is an organization that serves as a third-party agent representing a specific group of employees. When a union represents employees, the union is the exclusive representative for those employees with respect to their pay and working conditions. This means that a faculty member represented by a union would not be able to make individualized arrangements with a Department Chair about his or her work if those arrangements were inconsistent with a collective bargaining agreement – even if those arrangements worked better for the faculty member and the department than what the collective bargaining agreement provided.

If I am interested in union representation, is there any deadline for organizing?
No. You can choose to continue your current direct relationship with the university. If you later determine that you would benefit from the representation by a third party like SEIU or some other union, you would be free to seek union representation at some later time. Many employees who are eligible to organize decide to first attempt to work out any issues directly with their employer, rather than paying a union to raise those same issues because once a union is elected, it is difficult to remove even if the union is not delivering the results the employees wanted.

Who is eligible to vote in this union election?
The National Labor Relations Board will hold an election among the following faculty members to determine if they want SEIU to be their exclusive representative with respect to salaries, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment:

All employees appointed by the University as fulltime non-tenured and non-tenure track faculty who teach at least two credit-bearing courses in the academic year on Washington University’s Danforth campus in Arts & Sciences.

If a majority of those voting chooses to unionize, can I opt out?
No. If the union wins an election, you will be represented by the union even if you voted against unionization or did not vote. Missouri’s new “right to work” legislation does not change this or allow you to opt out of union representation.

How does voting in an election work?
The election will be supervised by the NLRB. The outcome of the election is determined by a majority of those who actually vote, even if that is a small subset of the eligible voters. For example, if only 50 out of the 119 eligible faculty members take the time to vote, and the union gets 26 of those 50 votes, then the union will become the exclusive legal bargaining representative of all 119 faculty members based on the wishes of only 21% of the group.

If the faculty vote for the SEIU but then find they don’t like it, can the faculty change their minds about unionization?
Yes, but not easily. If the SEIU is certified as the exclusive representative of full-time, fixed-term faculty, that status cannot be challenged for at least one year after the SEIU is certified by the NLRB as the faculty’s representative. Even after that one-year period, the union’s status can only be challenged by the faculty by petitioning the NLRB for another election.

If a majority of those voting chooses to unionize, can I opt out?
No. If the union wins an election, you will be represented by the union even if you voted against unionization or did not vote. Missouri’s new “right to work” legislation does not change this or allow you to opt out of union representation.

What is “right to work” legislation?
Right-to-work legislation is a law that makes it unlawful for a union and an employer to agree that an individual represented by a union must pay dues or a fee to the union as a condition of continued employment with the employer. Even with right-to-work legislation in place, if there is an election and the union wins, the union will be the exclusive representative of all faculty members covered by the election with respect to the terms and conditions of their employment, regardless of whether or how any individual faculty member voted. Also, nothing in the law prevents the union from granting greater rights to dues-paying members. For example, SEIU could decide that only dues-paying members can vote on whether to ratify a collective bargaining agreement or whether to go out on strike. However, because the union would still be the exclusive representative of all faculty members who were eligible to vote, all of those faculty members would be bound by the union contract even if they did not pay dues and did not have the right to vote on that contract.

If I join SEIU would there be rules I would have to follow?
Yes. SEIU members must adhere to SEIU’s constitution and bylaws. SEIU’s Local 1 also has its own constitution and bylaws that you would have to follow.

What will change if the union becomes the exclusive representative of full-time, fixed-term faculty?
If the union wins an election, it becomes the exclusive representative of those faculty members with respect to salaries, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment. The University would be legally prohibited from dealing directly with faculty on those issues that are mandatory subjects of bargaining, and instead would be obligated to deal exclusively with the SEIU on those subjects.

What is collective bargaining?
Collective bargaining is the process in which an employer and a union representing all members of a bargaining unit negotiate over the members’ wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. If SEIU wins the election, SEIU would be the exclusive representative of all of the full-time, fixed-term faculty who are eligible to vote in the election, so those faculty would not be able to make individual arrangements about their working relationship with the university.

How does collective bargaining work?
During negotiations, unions typically make requests concerning terms and conditions of employment. An employer must give good faith consideration to those requests, but is under no obligation to agree to the union’s proposals.

Does the law require the parties to complete their negotiations within a certain period of time?
No. It often takes more than a year to negotiate a first collective bargaining agreement. That was the case with the contract the university negotiated with SEIU for adjunct faculty. The law does not require any specific frequency of meetings. It simply requires that the parties “meet at reasonable times and confer in good faith.”

If the SEIU wins an election, will faculty be guaranteed improvements in pay, benefits or job security?
No. The union cannot guarantee any changes to the terms and conditions of your employment. It can only ask the University to make changes and attempt to secure the University’s agreement during contract negotiations. Depending on the individual, the end result could be more or less favorable than current terms and conditions.

What happens if the University does not agree to all of the union’s requests?
The union can either accept the University’s position on the disputed issues or ask the faculty to vote in favor of going out on strike in an effort to apply pressure on the University to change its position.

If the union strikes, would I get paid and can I lose my job?
If you didn’t work, you wouldn’t get paid. Employers have the right to continue operating during a strike and have the option of hiring permanent replacements when a union strikes in an attempt to apply pressure in bargaining over wages, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment. Someone hired as a permanent replacement does not lose their job when the strike ends; the striking employee is not entitled to their position unless or until the replacement leaves. No one knows if a strike would happen, but you should be aware of this possibility.

Could I choose to work even if SEIU called a strike?
Only you can answer that question. If you were willing to work, the university would welcome you to do so. However, you should be aware that if you were a dues-paying member of SEIU and worked during a strike, you could be subject to fines and other penalties imposed by SEIU.