For the past 41 years, I have served as a member of the Peabody College/Vanderbilt University NTT faculty. Even though in theory, from a social justice perspective, I am an advocate for the individual right of union representation when justified, I do not believe that SEIU is the union that should represent Vanderbilt NTT faculty. Instead of giving me voice, it is the first time in my years at the university I feel that my voice has been silenced. The union has silenced my voice in what should be a democratic voting process.
SEIU, in reality, has demonstrated through their process and actions, that contrary to their claims, NTT faculty actually will be giving up their individual voice, self -representation/determination, and academic freedom. I think SEIU's actions have demonstrated that it does not:
understand our professional culture and community,
operate in good faith,
respect our rights as individuals but rather uses intimidation tactics to recruit members, and
stand for the best interest of all constituencies they wish to represent.
We do not need union representation to represent us--we need to continue to represent ourselves. It is my opinion that the Peabody NTT faculty should vote against unionization at this time. Rather, as we have always done in the past, we need to sit at the table with our colleagues and Peabody administration to raise our own collective voices to continue to work toward improved inclusive and productive outcomes that bring justice for us all. I encourage each of you to vote. Use your voice!
Sharon L. Shields, Ph.D. Professor of the Practice of Human and Organizational Development Associate Dean of Professional Education Peabody College of Vanderbilt University
Freedom is a "habit of resistance", an acquired taste for saying "no" to injustice, a conditioned reflex for helping others stand up and speak out. Freedom is not the safe harbor at the end of the journey. Freedom is the journey itself every day of our lives, every step of the way. Si Kahn, Author of How People Get Power
Now that Blair can decide for itself whether to be represented by the SEIU, it is more necessary than ever to vote. I am not supporting the SEIU’s attempt to represent our diverse academic non-tenured environment. With Blair’s multiple academic positions, I do not believe formulating a “one size fits all” format is viable. Furthermore, corporate unionization threatens the expression and development of the diverse opinions upon which higher education depends. While I am a life-time member of the American Federation of Musicians Union and value its service for the freelance, recording, symphonic and theater industry, I feel representation by the SEIU for academia is neither appropriate, effective nor necessary.
The process to unionize this spring has been precipitous and was made without a consensus. The first I heard of this movement was when emails announcing the intent to unionize arrived; followed by the SEIU representative knocking on my office door. This action has created divisiveness among non-tenured faculty and, if the union is adopted, a Blair union culture would result in an inharmonious community of “them versus us.” Had I been consulted, I would have said that something as intractable as unionization does not belong at Blair. While acknowledging that some faculty have had challenges, frustrations and feel disenfranchised and that issues of faculty workload, salaries and program cuts need to be addressed, the potential for reform is strong when people work together; not against each other. To affect and accomplish change, we need unity, not a union.
I want to retain my individual rights to negotiate my wages, benefits, teaching responsibilities, shared governance opportunities, health insurance and retirement plans and would welcome the opportunity to help other non-tenured faculty work toward making improvements.
Needless to say, Blair/Vanderbilt is my life’s work; it has provided me with opportunities of growth as a teacher, performer and human being for 43 years. I am fully vested in the Vanderbilt community and hope to continue to serve and learn for years to come. Let us work together to make it better for all.
Please vote NO if you do not want the SEIU as your exclusive bargaining representative (be sure to follow the specific ballot instructions to have your vote counted).
Thank you, Kathryn
Please accept my apologies if your name was erroneously included in this non-tenure track bargaining unit email.
Those eligible to vote are all non-tenure track faculty in each of the four schools (A&S, Blair, Peabody and Divinity) who taught at least one undergraduate level or above class during the Spring 2017, and do not have administrative roles.
Four separate units based on non-tenure-track faculty’s primary school appointments are appropriate. Based on this finding, the RD directed separate elections in each of the four schools—A&S, Blair, Peabody and Divinity—to determine whether these newly-constituted units wish to be represented by SEIU Local 205 for purposes of collective bargaining.
Elections for each school will begin on May 15 with ballots counted on June 6.
Ballots will be sent to those eligible through the U.S. mail.
Kathryn Plummer Professor of Viola Blair School of Music Vanderbilt University