Although I know you have likely been getting a lot of emails about the upcoming unionization vote at VU, I wanted to send one more to each of you on this list to ask two simple things (both of which I will explain below as briefly as possible). Please take a moment to read this email.
In brief, this email is to ask you to do two things:
1) First, PLEASE VOTE on the union election with the ballot you will receive in the mail next week. We have been told that ballots will be mailed to home addresses beginning Monday, May 15 and will be counted on June 6. Your vote is critical, no matter how you intend to vote (see below).
2) Second, although you should vote however you feel best, I would like to encourage you to vote 'no' on this, for reasons I will also explain as briefly as possible below.
On the first: we have been told that ballots will be sent to home addresses this coming Monday, May 15, re. the election to decide whether or not a union will be contracted to represent full-time, part-time, and adjunct non-tenure track (NTT) faculty at Vanderbilt. The elections will be held separately by college -- Peabody, A&S, Blair, and Divinity -- and the results will be entirely independent of one another. Thus, whatever one college decides to do will not bind another. This email is to appeal to you, then, only about the union election for Peabody. There are numerous NTT faculty (full-, part-time, and adjunct) at Peabody. Those NTT who are in administrative positions or serving on various committees are ineligible to vote in the election, however. The remaining group -- about 60 individuals -- are the ones who are eligible to vote, as defined by the union, and who will determine the outcome of the election that will affect all of us. Please be aware that whether you choose to vote or not, you will be bound by the results of the election. Not voting doesn't keep you out of the union. The result will be determined by simple majority. Thus, if only three people vote for the union at Peabody and 2 of those vote yes, you WILL be part of the union if you are a member of the NTT group (as are all adjuncts and most lecturers), whether or not you choose to vote. For those NTT individuals who are currently serving in administrative positions and not currently eligible to vote, they, too, will be represented by an elected union if their position ever changes. The take-home message here is simple: it is VITAL that you vote next week, using the ballot that will be mailed to you. That will be the only way you can have influence as to the outcome of the election, whose results, whether you vote or not, will affect you and bind you, and all of us, to whatever outcome occurs.
On the second, as with any ballot, you should vote however you see fit, but I would like to encourage you to vote 'no' on this particular election for some very straight-forward reasons. This union has shown itself over the past several months and weeks to engage in tactics that can only be described as 'under-handed.' They have gone back on promises at the 11th hour and are now attempting to mount a campaign rapidly, without giving people proper time to consider their options. They have camped out outside of classes, harassed people at their homes, and, in one case, harassed an individual so aggressively that police intervention was needed. Although it is not uncommon for a union to use aggressive tactics on occasion, it appears that this group has gone far beyond what might be considered normal or even ethical, leading many of us to question their general operating procedures or ways in which they might represent the individuals they are supposedly trying to serve. More to the point, I have spoken this week to a colleague who works at an institution where this union currently operates. She shared with me her horror at the way that union operates within her institution and indicated her strong feelings, based on actual evidence of watching them work, about not wanting them to represent her or her colleagues in any way. To be clear, the issue of whether Peabody NTT may be served well by a union in general is NOT at stake in this election. It may well be that with ample time to consider all possibilities, Peabody NTT may determine that there IS a union out there that may serve us well and that is needed. That decision deserves more careful thought and consideration, far more than has been allowed under the current time-frame. What IS at stake is whether we should be represented by THIS particular union. To that end, I encourage you to vote "no".
PLEASE do vote, using the ballot you will receive next week, perhaps as early as Monday, May 15. We have been told that the ballots will be counted on June 6, although it's not clear if there is a return deadline that is earlier than that. To that end, I would also suggest you do two things in relation this ballot: 1) read it VERY CAREFULLY not only to make sure when it is due but also to make sure that you are voting the way you intend to vote. It is not uncommon for ballots in situations like these to be worded in a way that may confuse people into voting a certain way when they intended to do otherwise. Although none of us has seen the actual ballot, it wouldn't be much of a surprise if the language is unclear or purposefully confusing, given the behavior thus far of this union. PLEASE READ THE BALLOT CAREFULLY AND MAKE SURE YOU ARE VOTING THE WAY YOU INTEND and make sure you return it by the date requested; 2) Regardless of whether you vote yes or no, make a copy of your ballot or take a picture of it so that, if needed, you will be able to prove how you voted. We do not know how the votes will be counted or in what format or in front of what audience. It would be wise to keep a record of your vote in the event that proof might be needed to verify the outcome.
Listed below is a link that will take you to a website put together by several NTT faculty in order to convey information and express concerns. It is a work in progress and will be updated regularly. You may wish to consult it to find out more and/or to determine how you may wish to vote.
Again, PLEASE VOTE using the ballot you will receive next week -- do not ignore the communication you will receive. Your vote is the only way you can help determine the outcome of the election, an outcome that will affect you, and all of us, for years to come. Consider all of the angles, as you might in any situation, but also please consider voting "NO" -- not against the idea of a union in general but very much against the idea of THIS PARTICULAR UNION for reasons stated here.
Please feel free to send this email to any other Peabody adjunct, part-time, or full-time non-tenured track faculty. It is vital that all are fully informed by next week of the importance of what is about to happen and their potential role in determining the outcome.
Thank you for reading this....PLEASE continue to take action by voting next week!!
Nina C. Martin, Ed.D.,