Information About Union Organizing
Emerson College is committed to providing thorough and accurate information to you. As part of that commitment, the following include responses to some common questions that employees ask about unions.
UNIONIZATION AT EMERSON COLLEGE
Q. What is the College’s position on unionization?
A. The National Labor Relations Act gives you the right to organize, form, join or assist a union and engage in other protected concerted activity and also specifically gives you the right to refrain from engaging in any of these activities. The College respects your free choice under this Act. The College will not discriminate against you because you support or oppose a union.
You are part of a well-educated, highly skilled, engaged workforce dedicated to inquiry and critical analysis. We know you will think carefully about any decision to unionize, educate yourselves, and ask wise and probing questions both of the organizing union and of management.
Q. How are unions recognized?
A. All of the unions at Emerson have been certified pursuant to an NLRB election process because the College believes strongly in the right of an employee to vote a secret ballot.
Q. What is an “appropriate bargaining unit” to which you refer?
A. Emerson has seven bargaining units on campus: Emerson police officers and dispatchers represented by ACOPS; two for affiliated faculty (AAUP); one for all full faculty (AAUP); and three staff units in Information Technology, Institutional Advancement and Academic Affairs represented by the SEIU.
Q. Are some employees excluded from such bargaining units?
A. Yes. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) provides that certain employees, because of their status, cannot be in collective bargaining units. These included supervisors, managers, and confidential employees. A brief description of each follows:
- Supervisors: those who in the interest of the employer have the authority to assign and direct work; hire, promote, evaluate the performance, and terminate the employment of other employees; or effectively recommend such action are not in the bargaining unit.
- those who formulate and effectuate management policy and exercise independent judgment are not in the bargaining unit.
- Confidential employees: those who work for managers who set labor policy for the College are not in the bargaining unit. Human resources employees, for example, are often confidential employees because they work for managers who set labor policy. The fact that an employee works for someone who handles confidential information generally, unrelated to labor policy, does not make them a “confidential employee” under the NLRA. Thus, employees who work for managers in health services or counseling are not considered confidential employees for bargaining unit purposes. Similarly, employees designated as “confidential” under the College’s Title IX program may not be considered confidential employees for bargaining unit purposes.
Q. Who determines whether I am in the bargaining unit or not?
A. In a union election situation, if the union and the employer cannot agree on such exclusions or on what the “appropriate bargaining unit” may be, then the NLRB decides.
Q. If a union is elected, can it be voted out?
A. Yes. Unions do not stand for reelection each year. Most unions remain the representative of the employees in the unit forever. However, the law does provide a mechanism for holding another election. In order to have such an election and decertify a union, the employees in the unit must themselves file a decertification petition with the NLRB, along with a 30% showing of interest, just as in the certification process. The NLRB will process the petition and hold another election.
QUESTIONS INVOLVING THE WORKPLACE WITH A UNION
Q. What does it mean to be unionized?
A. If the NLRB, after an election, certifies a union as the exclusive representative of a bargaining unit of which you are a member, it first and foremost means that the union exclusively represents you on all matters involving wages, benefits, hours and other terms and conditions of employment. It means the College must deal with that union on all such matters, and your supervisor may no longer deal with you individually with respect to the terms and conditions of your employment unless allowed by the collective bargaining agreement.
Q. If employees are unionized, would I have to join it?
A. You would certainly be represented by the union; there is no “opt out.” Most union contracts require that you join the union and pay dues or fees or pay the functional equivalent of dues. This provision is called a union security clause. Under a union security clause, you must pay your dues or fees in order to remain employed. The three staff bargaining units represented by the SEIU all have such provisions as does the affiliated faculty contract.
Q. What happens if I do not want to pay dues or fees?
A. If the collective bargaining agreement has a union security clause, the union has the right to insist that you be fired, and the College would be contractually bound to do so.
Q. How much are dues?
A. Dues will vary considerably from union to union. Some unions will charge between 1–2% of your salary each year. Others will charge you a flat amount per pay period. Unions revisit dues and raise them from time to time.
QUESTIONS YOU MAY HAVE ABOUT COMMUNICATION AND ACCESS
Q. What is the College’s policy on union solicitation?
A. The College has a written policy on solicitation for any purpose. Solicitation by employees for any reason -including union solicitation - should only be done during the non-working time of both the employee doing the soliciting and the employee being solicited. Non-working time would include such periods as before or after work, break times, and lunch times. Again, the choice of whether or not to talk with someone, including a co-worker, is entirely up to you. (See College’s solicitation policy)
Q. Do I have to talk to anyone from an organizing union if they call me or visit me at home?
A. No. You are free to speak to them or not. There is no law or policy that requires you to speak with union representatives either at home or in the workplace, and you are free to respond accordingly or refer them to HR is they have questions.