As you think about the upcoming election, please recognize that the issue before you is not only whether you want a union acting as your exclusive bargaining representative, but also whether the Service Employees International Union is the right union to address your concerns.
As its name suggests, SEIU primarily represents service workers such as janitors, security officers, bus drivers and nursing home aides. SEIU is a relative newcomer to private institutions of higher education. In this election you will need to decide whether you want to be exclusively represented by an organization that lacks expertise in higher education, by union representatives who may not understand the academic environment, your particular discipline, and what you need to be successful.
In making that decision, you may want to consider the experience of the adjunct instructors currently represented by SEIU. You can review a summary of the Adjunct Faculty Bargaining Agreement here. The terms of that contract fell far short of the promises made by SEIU during the campaign. Yet the SEIU devoted significant effort last semester to persuading adjunct instructors to authorize the University to deduct dues, fees or contributions directly from their paychecks. Many adjunct instructors complained to the University that SEIU representatives interrupted their classes to try to convince them to pay union dues, even though the contract prohibits union representatives from interfering with the work of instructors. It also became clear that SEIU initially misrepresented to the adjuncts what their options under the contract actually were. The union informed adjunct instructors that they would lose their jobs if they did not pay union dues, when in fact those faculty members had the options of paying a lesser agency fee or of seeking a religious or conflict-of-interest exemption and paying a lesser charitable contribution to a non-union cause.
Nonetheless, SEIU demanded that the University deny reappointment to nearly 70 adjuncts – more than ⅓ of the faculty represented by the union that semester – who had not authorized deductions of union dues or fees from their paychecks, many of whom had a lengthy record of teaching at the University. Because we were concerned that the adjunct instructors had not received accurate information or adequate opportunity to properly consider their options, the University refused. Now the union is taking the University to arbitration over its refusal to end the appointments of several dozen of those adjuncts.
As the election approaches, it is important that you ask yourself if SEIU is the kind of organization you want representing you.