Faculty Members Vote on Union Representation

The results of a recently conducted election on whether or not faculty members in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) are in favor of unionizing are expected to be revealed Jan. 27.

The survey was carried out by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in the form of a secret ballot election, which meant voting was anonymous. A petition to form a union was filed in November 2015 and the election took place between Jan. 11 and Jan. 26.

The NLRB is an independent federal agency that “protects the rights of private sector employees to join together, with or without a union, to improve their wages and working conditions,” according to its website.

If the faculty votes in favor of a union, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73 will represent CAS faculty members.   

A “yes vote” on the ballot indicates the voter “wants to have the SEIU as faculty members’ exclusive bargaining representative,” while a “no vote” means the voter does not want union representation from SEIU.

This national union movement reached the Chicago area when the University of Chicago held an election last December and 81 percent faculty members voted in favor of forming a union with SEIU.

Senior lecturer [University of Chicago] Jason Grunebaum said UChicago’s faculty is supporting Loyola during this election process.

“Loyola faculty joining their colleagues across Chicagoland will set an example of leadership, demonstrating how a bright and just future can become a reality today for everyone in all our respective academic communities,” Grunebaum said.

SEIU spokesperson Adam Rosen said he believes the campaign will continue to grow.

“There has been a lot of support from faculty at Loyola and surrounding universities,” Rosen said.  “The campaign is really a member-driven effort with faculty talking to fellow co-workers to take action.”

Senior Vice President for Administrative Services Thomas Kelly said if a majority of faculty votes “yes,” the process of bargaining terms and conditions of employment can begin.

“The SEIU will come forward, if they’re successful, with proposals or areas in which they’re interested in bargaining, but we’re not sure what that is going to be and what that would be for the full-time faculty versus the part-time faculty,” Kelly said. “It’ll depend on what’s bargained, the expectation that we have is that they will be looking to bargain for more salary.”

SEIU is unsure of the issues that will be bargained; it will be up to the faculty.

“We would survey the faculty on the most important issues they wish to have addressed so we can bring them up in discussion and reach out to Loyola for negotiation dates,” Rosen said.  

SEIU will be elected if it obtains a majority of the votes cast, not a majority of the total voters.  In other words, this means a minority of eligible voters could determine the future for the majority, Kelly said.

“It’s very likely that if not everybody votes, then a small group will make the decision for the whole group,” Kelly said. “We really do want the majority of people this is going to affect to make this decision.”

Kelly said the administration is encouraging faculty to educate themselves on what collective bargaining means so they can make an informed decision.

Collective bargaining would require Loyola and SEIU to discuss bargaining agreements such as pay, benefits and others terms and conditions of employment, according to Loyola’s SEIU faculty union petition website.

Another important aspect of collective bargaining is that neither party is required to agree to proposals made.

“The union is going to be looking for us to do some things,” Kelly said. “It just depends how economical those proposals are going to be.”

Interim President John Pelissero sent a video message to the Loyola community about his position on this issue on Jan. 12.  

In the video, Pelissero voiced his concern about the faculty choosing to unionize.

“I believe it’s best to work together directly — not through an outside third party — to continue to improve on the relationships,” he said. 

Pelissero added that SEIU Local 73 does not have the knowledge to properly represent faculty members at this university.

“I know that SEIU does not understand the breadth and depth of faculty responsibilities,” he said. “They do not understand our pedagogic philosophy or our deeply rooted Catholic intellectual tradition.”

Sophomore sociology major Brock Johnson said he supports the faculty’s choice to vote on unionization.

“As a student, I am thoroughly disappointed that our university president issued a statement in opposition of the proposed union, despite a recent pro-labor address by the Chicago archdiocese and being in direct contradiction with Loyola’s own Jesuit mission,” said the 19-year-old.  

Rosen said the results of the election should speak for themselves.

“The way the 326 faculty members vote will be in the majority’s best interest,” he said. “But I have a feeling Loyola will appeal the election and this will not be over.”

For voting results and other updates check out The Phoenix website.

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