A union is an organization that serves as a representative for a group of employees for purposes of negotiating with an employer to establish terms and conditions of employment, such as appointment terms, shared governance, salary, and benefits. A union typically charges its members for providing this service in the form of dues.
How much are union dues and fees? +
We don’t know. SEIU dues can vary. According to SEIU websites, dues for adjunct faculty at Washington University in St. Louis are 1.7% of gross salary and dues for faculty at University of Chicago are 2% of gross salary. The SEIU can also charge initiation fees that range as high as $300.
What is the NLRB? +
The National Labor Relations Board is an independent federal agency charged to administer the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRB issues rules and guidance under the NLRA, it conducts union elections, it prosecutes violations of the NLRA (unfair labor practices), and it issues case decisions interpreting the NLRA. The Board is made up of five members, who are political…
How is the union chosen? Who decides which union will represent faculty? +
Most union organizing drives involve efforts by a single union (as opposed to competing unions) to solicit voters to sign authorization cards. The initial contact between the union and potential voters could be initiated by a union, or it could be initiated by a potential voter who approached the union first. Thereafter, paid union organizers attempt to collect “authorization cards.”…
What faculty can be unionized? +
The law provides that faculty in “an appropriate bargaining unit” may unionize provided they are not supervisory or managerial according to criteria outlined by the NLRB and the Supreme Court’s Yeshiva decision. We believe that adjunct faculty in an appropriate bargaining unit have the right to unionize. We believe that full time regular faculty (tenure track and non-tenure track) at…
What is an authorization card, and why do unions collect them? +
Authorization cards are signed, written, or electronic declarations submitted by members of a potential bargaining unit stating that they want a particular union to be their exclusive representative for the purposes of negotiating the terms and conditions of their employment. Typically, unions collect authorization cards as part of an organizing drive – that is, an attempt to show there is an…
If I sign a union authorization card am I required to vote "yes" for unionization during the election? +
No, you do not have to vote for the union even if you signed an authorization card. Your vote is your voice and you may change your mind.
What are the steps a union must follow to represent the faculty at Vanderbilt University? +
After obtaining an appropriate showing of interest (at least 30% of the group of faculty the union seeks to represent have signed union authorization cards), a union files a petition for an election with the Regional NLRB Office. The petition is sent to the University with a notice of a hearing to be held by the Regional Director (RD) of…
Is the University required to provide any of my personal information to a union petition? +
Yes. The University must provide the union with the home addresses, home email addresses and home telephone/cell phone numbers of all eligible voters in the proposed unit. This requirement to turn over your personal information is mandated by federal law if the union gets enough support to file a petition.
I have been contacted to voice my endorsement for a union. Is there a mechanism where those opposed to a faculty union can voice their dissent? +
Faculty opposed to a union may express their opinion to the Vanderbilt community, administration, and faculty and may organize in opposition to any such efforts. We encourage you to express your opinions.
Tennessee is a right to work state - what does that mean? +
As a right-to-work state, bargaining unit members in Tennessee do not have to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment. However, typically, only dues-paying members of a union may vote to ratify or reject a union contract or participate in a vote to strike. Thus, only dues-paying union members set the bargaining terms and agree…
FAQ: Union Election
When Would an election be held? +
This is very difficult to answer. The answer depends on the petition, the legal issues raised and how they are resolved.
How is the vote determined? +
An election to certify a union as the bargaining representative is decided by a majority of the votes actually cast by eligible voters. A tie goes to the University. A “Yes” vote means the voter wishes to be represented by the union; a “No” vote means the voter does not want to be represented by the union. Voters must actually…
Which faculty are included in the bargaining unit proposed by the SEIU? +
The description of the bargaining unit in the SEIU’s representation petition filed at the NLRB is as follows: Including: All full-time and part-time graduate and undergraduate non-tenure-track faculty (including but not limited to the follow titles: Lecturers, Senior Lecturers, Principal Senior Lecturers, Instructors, non-tenure-track Assistant Professors, non-tenure-track Associate Professors, non-tenure-track Professors, Adjunct Faculty, Adjunct Instructors, Adjunct Lecturers, Adjunct Assistant Professors,…
Who is eligible to vote? +
We don’t know. The National Labor Relations Board will decide who is eligible to vote in a union election.
If we have an election, would my vote be anonymous? +
Yes. Voting is by secret ballot and the election is conducted by employees of the NLRB. Union representatives and University officials may not be present at the voting locations during the actual vote.
Can faculty speak to one another about unionization? +
Yes. Faculty may speak freely to each other about the issues surrounding unionization. Faculty may also speak with University administrators regarding unionization. University administrators respect your personal opinions and privacy, and will not interrogate faculty about their union views.
Would there be consequences if I voice my views for or against unionization? +
No. It violates the National Labor Relations Act, University policy and our values to retaliate against a person because of their union views.
What would the union get by winning an election? +
The union would serve as your exclusive representative in all dealings with the University regarding your terms and conditions of employment, including wages, benefits, and all other issues surrounding your employment. Your relationship with the University would be changed, since you may no longer be able to engage directly with your dean, chair, or other leaders on the support you…
If there is an election and faculty vote not to unionize, can there be another election? +
Yes. The timing depends on the actual circumstances, but typically it is one year before another vote can happen.
If an election results in representation by a union, could there be another election to remove or "decertify" the union? +
Yes, however, the NLRB will not process a union decertification petition for at least one year after the vote. If the union and University agree on a union contract with a term of 3 years or longer, the NLRB will not process a union decertification petition for the first three years of the union contract. While decertification is possible, please…
Could we determine what issues a union would address prior to voting? +
No. The bargaining demands made by a union during contract negotiations are set by the union bargaining committee. The bargaining committee may be elected or appointed by the union and is made up of dues-paying members. Contract negotiation proposals are determined by the union after it is selected by the eligible voters to represent the bargaining unit. Once in bargaining,…
Would all members of the bargaining unit be represented by the union, even if they are not a union member? +
Yes, whether or not a faculty is a member of the union, all faculty in the bargaining unit are represented by the union and would be covered by the terms and conditions of the union contract. However, it is likely only those faculty who join the union and pay union dues could vote on union business, including contract ratification and…
If Vanderbilt faculty unionized, would I have to join the union? +
No. Since Tennessee is a right-to-work state, a person covered by a union contract need not join and pay dues to the union to be a member of the bargaining unit. However, that person is still bound by all terms and conditions of the union contract. Thus, important things like your pay, health insurance, professional development funds, and teaching responsibilities…
Could the University make an exception for me and not require that I follow a section of the union contract if I didn’t like a particular section? +
No. A union contract is a binding contract and, unless the contract states otherwise, exceptions are not allowed.
What can a union bargain for? What matters are not subject to negotiation? +
All matters related to wages, hours and working conditions are mandatory subjects of bargaining. Examples include salary, work hours, shared governance, health insurance, retirement plans, appointment duration, and disciplinary procedures.
Will faculty pay increase if unionization happens? What about benefits and job security? +
There is a common misperception that the current terms and conditions serve as the floor for bargaining and can only improve with collective bargaining. This is not true. There is no guarantee that a union would negotiate improvements in pay, governance, benefits or other working conditions. There is no guarantee that the collective bargaining process would yield results more favorable…
Can the union give away benefits faculty already have? +
Yes, while it is possible that collective bargaining could result in represented faculty getting more than they had when negotiations began, it is also possible that terms and conditions could remain unchanged or that faculty could get less than they had when negotiations began.
Can a union dictate terms at Vanderbilt if it can successfully organize faculty at other schools? +
No. Even if a union represented faculty at several other schools, terms negotiated elsewhere would not apply here, and the University would not agree to the union's proposals simply because some other institution has done so, nor would it be required to do so.
If the union is certified, would faculty still be protected by the Faculty Manual? +
We don’t know. If the union is legally certified, all terms and conditions of employment contained in the Faculty Manual would be subject to collective bargaining.
What happens if a union and the University cannot agree on a labor contract? +
If a union and the University cannot agree after engaging in good faith bargaining, normally the employer makes its final proposal, often called a “last, best, and final offer.” In response, the union normally will ask its members to vote on the proposal. If the members of the bargaining unit vote to accept (or “ratify”) the offer, then the parties…
What does it mean to strike? +
A labor strike is when a union and its members withhold labor from the employer to force the university to accede to union bargaining demands. Strikes are often accompanied by picket lines and disruption. Strikers immediately lose their pay and compensation (stipends, etc.), health insurance benefits. In Tennessee, strikers are not eligible to receive unemployment benefits. The process to call…
If there were a faculty union, could faculty continue to sit on departmental and school committees? +
We are not sure how a union would affect the current structure of the University, departmental and school committees.
What rights would the University have under a labor contract? +
Often, in labor contracts employers expressly reserve their right to run their operations, and this reservation of rights is embodied in a “management rights” clause.
What vehicles are currently available for faculty to have a voice and real input into their professional life at Vanderbilt? +
Vanderbilt strives to create an open and collegial atmosphere, where all members of the campus community feel they have a voice and real input into their professional life at Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt is constantly offering faculty a chance to provide input, helping to direct the future of the University. As a result, the faculty, including non-tenure track, play an integral role…