This webpage is designed by Saint Martin’s University to serve as a resource for information on unionization and the union organizing efforts at the University. Recently, Saint Martin’s University learned that external organizers from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 925 have been approaching faculty and staff members at the University and targeting faculty in their unionization efforts.

We respect the rights of faculty and staff to decide whether being represented by a third-party union is in their best interest. We want to encourage an open dialogue and substantive conversation about both our model of shared governance as well as unionization, while providing resources and facts for faculty and staff to support their own research. We also want to provide the University’s response and views on faculty unionization. It is our goal to encourage dialogue and facilitate the exchange of accurate information so that each employee of Saint Martin’s University can make their own informed choice in good conscience.

Table of contents

Recent updates to this page

[page last updated 6/30/2016]

  • Added the emails "Community Announcement" and "Union election votes have been counted" [6/30/2016]
  • Added the email "What can faculty do without a union" sent on 6/4 [6/6/2016]
  • Added President Heynderickx's thank-you email sent on 5/29 [6/2/2016]
  • Added SMU's FAQ regarding SEIU emailed on 6/2 [6/2/2016]

University response to faculty unionization

In recent communications, the University Board of Trustees and the Chancellor have publicly stated their preference that the University’s administration’s direct working relationship with faculty best serves the educational mission of the University — without interference from a third party that may or may not understand higher education, our University community and our values.

This direct working relationship — one that is founded upon decades of mutual respect, trust, and direct dialogue — is what makes Saint Martin’s a special place. This way, we grow together in shared governance and support direct communication between administration and faculty.

As a Catholic Benedictine University, Saint Martin’s is guided by Catholic Social Teaching and the Benedictine values of listening deeply and valuing the dignity of work. Our close working relationship and shared governance with faculty is an expression of the Benedictine faith and the values the University holds dear. Our preference is that the direct working relationship we have between faculty, staff, the University, and the Abbey can continue and thrive. Together we can continue to pursue our common mission in the best interests of those we are here to serve — our students. We look forward to continuing a dialogue with you and encourage you to listen deeply to the viewpoints of others and make informed decisions after respectful discourse and careful consideration.

Faculty and staff rights

Whether you are considering these issues for the first time or revisiting them, we want to make sure you are aware of your rights and your freedoms regarding unionization as an employee at Saint Martin’s.

  • Voicing your opinion: You are legally empowered to openly state your opinions about union representation and you have the right to organize for or against unionization. Under federal law, you have the right to discuss your views regarding unionizing with your colleagues during non-work time and in a non-work setting; you can also organize with other faculty members to make your collective views known, distribute information and attend meetings or gatherings to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of unionizing.
  • Handling threats or promises: No one can threaten, interrogate, make promises to you or solicit your opinions and thoughts about unionization.
  • Employer/supervisor roles: Your employer or supervisor cannot approach you at work, at your home or in any other setting for the purpose of gauging your opinion about unionization.
  • Speaking with union representatives: You are not required to speak with union representatives, whether they approach you on campus, call you, or visit you at your home. Conversely, you are free to engage in discussions about unionizing with a union representative. Note that the University enforces its non-solicitation policy consistently, and as is the case with any other third-party solicitor, without prior written approval from the Office of Human Resources or the Office of Student Affairs, union representatives are prohibited from soliciting on the University campus.
  • Distributing union materials: You are not prohibited from distributing literature or handouts during work time but you are restricted from doing so while teaching a class. You are also prohibited from disrupting another teacher’s class. You have the right to accept or reject any materials offered to you.
  • Email messages: You are free to read or delete email messages from senders voicing opinions about unionization. Federal law also protects the right of employees who want to send such messages. Saint Martin’s University cannot filter or delete e-mails on your behalf.
  • Union dues: It is typically a union priority to negotiate a contract provision that requires employees to pay union dues or agency fees as a condition of employment. This is called a “union security clause.”  A union security clause could require the University to terminate any faculty member who does not remain current in payment of his or her dues or fees to the union. Typically, each local unit determines for itself how they’ll fund themselves (by either dues or fees). You will only be required to pay dues or fees if your role at the university falls within the scope of the bargaining unit—so, if the contingent faculty form a union, staff members will not pay union dues or fees to that unit, as it only applies to the university’s contingent faculty.
  • Voting: If an election to unionize comes to pass, exercise your right to vote, no matter if you favor or oppose unionization.  The results of a union election are decided by those who cast votes.  Make sure your voice is heard.
  • If you feel intimidated, threatened, or coerced: If you feel your rights are being violated, please report it immediately to Cynthia Johnson in the University's Office of Human Resources at CJohnson@stmartin.edu. You may also inform the regional National Labor Relations Board by calling 206-220-6300.

Unionization FAQs and resources

Below you'll find FAQs and documents from both the university and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regarding the progress of the unionization effort, unionization at other Catholic and private universities, union authorization cards and unionization in general.

  • Union organizing campaign status

    What is the current status for union organizing efforts at Saint Martin's University?

    A Notice of Election was given on Monday, May 16, stating that the NLRB ruled that an election will be held for contingent faculty at Saint Martin's to determine whether they want to be represented by SEIU, Local 925. Voting will take place between May 27 and June 17 through mail-in ballots.

    SEIU, Local 925 is still gathering union authorization cards to see whether the tenured/tenure-track faculty and staff at Saint Martin's, respectively, are interested in union representation.

  • Unionization authorization cards FAQ

    What is a union authorization card?

    A union authorization card (can also be a “Membership Card and Authorization”) is a legal document that can give a union the sole and exclusive right to speak and act on behalf of the employee for the purposes of collective bargaining with the employer in all matters regarding wages, benefits, working conditions and other terms of employment. A union authorization card is the initial step in the unionization process.  The card is issued by the union and is an application for membership in the union as well as a commitment to pay dues once a contract is reached. 

     

    What does the union do with signed authorization cards?

    The union can do several things with a signed authorization card:

    1. If the union gets 30% of faculty to sign cards, it could go to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and file a petition for an election to determine if faculty want to be unionized. 
    2. The union can keep the card because it is valid for one year from the day it is signed.
    3. The union may use it to send you mail and to call or visit you at home.

     

    What does signing a union authorization card mean?

    Signing a union authorization card means that you are asking to become a member of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). A union authorization card is a legally binding document, and by signing it you state that you want the union to represent you for purposes of collective bargaining. In doing so, you are committing to pay dues, and you are giving the union the right to petition for an election in your name. It is not just indicating that you want an election to be held. No matter what you are told, a union card is not a request for more information or to be added or removed from the union’s mailing list.

     

    Does signing a union card obligate me to support the union?

    No. Signing a union card does not mean that you have to vote in support of the union. If an election is held, all voting is completely by secret ballot. No one will ever know how you vote.  You do not have to vote for the union in an election even if you signed a card. However, if SEIU receives enough union authorization cards to amount to 51% of the unionizing body, SEIU can petition to bypass the election and form a union outright, and your union authorization card will effectively have been your voice in support of the union.

     

    What happens if I signed a union authorization card and want to take it back?

    You have the right to ask that your union authorization card be returned to you.  If you signed an SEIU card and wish to retract it, you may write to the SEIU Local 925 at 1914 N. 34th Street, Suite 100, Seattle, WA 98103.  You also should send a copy of your letter to the National Labor Relations Board regional office at the following address: 915 2nd Avenue, Room 2948, Seattle, Washington 98174-1078.   

     

    What should I be mindful of if I’m asked to sign a union card?

    The decision is yours and yours alone to make about whether or not to sign a card or petition. Remember, these are legally binding documents, so be sure to know what you are signing and know your rights. See “Faculty and Staff Rights” section on this page. These simple guidelines can help protect your rights: 

    1. Ask before you sign: Before signing anything, it is important to know what you are signing.  Ask questions and gather enough information to enable you to make an informed decision as to whether or not to sign.  An authorization card could be paper or electronic.  It may or may not mention an election, and could be simply presented as a request for information.  Read everything carefully and ask how your signature and personal information will be used; and what terms/obligations you are agreeing to by signing.
    2. Don’t sign anything if you don’t know what it is you are signing:  As with any contract or other legal document, if you are unclear about what you are signing, don’t sign it.  Instead gather additional information so that you are able to make an informed decision and know exactly what you are signing.
    3. Make your own decision: It’s up to you to decide what is best for you. The decision to sign, or not to sign, is up to you—not Saint Martin’s University, not the union, not your supervisor, and not your co-workers. You should be able to make your decision without any pressure from anyone. 
    4. Report concerns: Report anything to your supervisor or HR representative that you don’t feel is appropriate or that you feel is not in keeping with the University’s security and privacy procedures.
    5. Keep a copy for your records: If you decide to sign, and just as you would with any important document, be sure to keep a copy for your own records.
    6. You can change your mind: You do have the right to change your mind once you’ve signed a card. You can request your signed card be returned to you by writing the union and asking for it back. See above instructions for retracting a signed union authorization card.

     

    What recourse do I have if I feel intimidated, threatened or coerced by the union to sign a card?

    If you feel your rights are being violated, please report it immediately to Cynthia Johnson in the University’s Office of Human Resources at cjohnson@stmartin.edu.

     

    Did Saint Martin’s provide my home address or phone number to the union?

    No. Saint Martin’s University respects your privacy and did not provide your address or other contact information to the union. If you wish not to be contacted by the union at your home, you can ask the union to remove you from its mailing list and not contact you in the future. However, if a union election is ordered, the University would be required by law to provide all your contact information to the union—including your cell and home telephone numbers, your home address, and your personal email address.

  • Union dues and obligations FAQ

    If a union is elected, do I have to pay union dues?

    Yes, if your role at the university falls within the scope of the collective bargaining unit and if the contract reached with the employer and approved by the union members contains a "union security clause", requiring all who are represented by the union to pay dues or fees as a condition of employment. A union security clause could require the University to terminate any faculty member who does not remain current in payment of his or her dues or fees to the union.

    How much are union dues?

    Union dues vary and are decided by the union.  According to the SEIU Local 925, current union dues are 1.7% of gross salaries, up to a cap of $95 per month or $1,140 per year. In some cases, the union security clause would require different bodies of employees to pay agencies fees in lieu of dues, which are typically slightly less than union dues.

  • Unions and Catholic universities

    Does Catholic Social Teaching recommend that employees of Catholic colleges and universities be represented by labor unions?

    Catholic Social Teaching does not universally recommend that all Catholic organizations automatically unionize. Unionization is a decision workers must come to on their own accord and have the freedom to pursue according to their need. Pope Leo XIII’s famous encyclical from 1891, Rerum Novarum, extolls the benefits of labor unions in the context of exploited factory workers in an era of increasing industrialization. Catholic Social Teaching does recommend, however, “that relations within the world of work must be marked by cooperation: hatred and attempts to eliminate the other are completely unacceptable.” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 306)

     

    Are unions prevalent at Catholic colleges and universities, including Benedictine schools?

    There are nearly 200 Catholic colleges and universities in the U.S., of which 17 are operated by the Order of Benedict of the Roman Catholic Church. At all 17 Benedictine schools there is a direct employer-employee relationship. While some Catholic university faculty have organized and negotiate under the terms of a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), the vast majority, including DePaul University and Carroll College, are non-union. The Benedictine value of community emphasizes the importance of each individual within a community and collective commitment to the whole by all.

     

    Is Saint Martin’s anti-union regarding the matter of faculty unionization?

    No. Our leadership, administrative, governing, and spiritual, greatly values and deeply respects all employees and supports the continuation of direct engagement – without outside intervention – among colleagues, including all faculty members.

  • Potential impact of unions

    Will a union, if formed, automatically increase faculty compensation?

    No. Compensation for every individual member of the bargaining unit would be determined through the collective bargaining process based on the terms and conditions of a negotiated Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). In this often lengthy and uncertain process, there is no guarantee – even with both sides committed to acting in good faith – that wages and/or benefits would increase. There is also no guarantee that the university would be able to continually enhance academic values by, for example, creating opportunities for more doctorally-qualified, tenure and tenure-track faculty.

     

    Why can’t we work together and improve working conditions during this time of discussion of unionization?

    Under federal labor law, the status quo must be maintained on wages and other working conditions during the collective bargaining process until an agreement is reached. This means that during the collective bargaining process, it can be an unfair labor practice for the employer to unilaterally make changes to compensation or working conditions that were not already scheduled. 

     

    Typically, how long does it take for the parties to negotiate a first contract following certification of a faculty union?

    Most first contracts are negotiated for a year or more before ratification. Some first contracts have taken two years or more to negotiate.

     

    Would unionization lead to an increase in tuition and other student expenses?

    The university is committed to continuing to offer affordable, high quality education and a low instructor-to-student ratio throughout programs. While many consequences, including impact on tuition, are speculative pending contract negotiations, it is a fact that unionization increases, at minimum, a university’s legal and administrative costs. At Saint Martin’s current 12:1 student-faculty ratio, and based on SEIU’s standard compensation goal for adjunct instructors, annual tuition costs could increase as much as $8,000 per student per year. All costs are taken into consideration in establishing the tuition schedule. 

Current faculty participation in shared governance

The new Faculty Handbook and Bylaws, written and approved by a committee of faculty who worked closely with the Provost, includes a strong commitment to shared governance by the faculty with committee participation and leadership at all levels. The FH&B strengthened shared governance in noticeable and important ways. University committees with faculty participation include:

  • Academic Standards
  • Behavior Intervention Team
  • Financial Aid Committee
  • Strategic Enrollment Team
  • University Budget Committee
  • University Retention Committee

Additionally, faculty participate as voting members in numerous Board of Trustees committees and subcommittees, including:

  • Academic Affairs committee (represented by a Faculty Affairs member and the Faculty President)
  • Compensation Subcommittee (represented by a Faculty Welfare member)
  • Finance Committee (represented by the Faculty President or someone he or she elects)
  • Facilities Committee (currently represented by a science faculty member, to focus communication around the new science building)
  • Enrollment Management Committee
  • Institutional Advancement Committee
  • International Programs Committee
  • Investment Committee
  • Marketing Committee
  • Development Committee

Recent efforts to improve work life at Saint Martin's

  • Better family benefits: In 2010, Saint Martin’s began subsidizing the dependent premiums for medical insurance so that the employee cost would remain unchanged; SMU has continued to absorb dependent premiums increased to date; employees are paying the same amount they paid in 2010.
  • A university-wide salary improvement plan: In 2013, Saint Martin’s developed a salary improvement plan (SIP), which outlined our “comparable” schools using CUPA-HR salary data for exempt staff and faculty. The list included “all private religious institutions with operating budgets between $20 and $40 million.” 
  • Salary increases: In January 2013, staff and faculty received a salary increase as part of the SIP.
  • Research benefits: In 2015, the Office of the Provost inaugurated summer research stipends for junior and senior faculty.
  • Raised floor for contingent faculty salaries: In fall and spring 2015-16, contingent faculty salaries were standardized and minimum compensation was raised across all colleges and schools, first in the College of Arts and Sciences, and then in all the other schools and colleges. This was done in consultation with the Faculty President and a team of faculty leaders; the team regarded this as a first step towards strengthening compensation further in future.

Saint Martin's budget and comparative data

In discussing the university budget at recent open forums, President Roy Heynderickx and CFO Ed Barton shared a financial snapshot with faculty, staff and students which included an overview of Saint Martin’s revenue stream and expenses as well as a breakdown of expenses by category and a breakdown of salaries and benefits.

2015 university financial snapshot »

In response to interest in seeing comparative data, we are sharing an IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System) report that compares Saint Martin's enrollment numbers, net price tuition, financial aid, core revenues, and core expenses, including salary, with 18 other private institutions, including regional faith-based universities and some Benedictine colleges. President Heynderickx and Provost Molly Smith will be working with faculty to determine an additional mutually agreed upon list of colleges and universities for comparison and we will post an updated link to that report when that list has been finalized.

IPEDS Institutional comparative data report 2014-2015 »

Glossary of terms

Agency fee: An agency fee is different from union dues. Employees who are represented by their union but are not dues-paying members pay this fee to the union for representing them. The term “agency fee” refers to a union’s ability to collect money from employees to pay for items such as negotiating a contract and representing employees in grievances and arbitrations, and lobbying activities to foster collective bargaining negotiations or secure advocates. The agency fee can also be referred to as “fair share” and “agency shop fee.” (University of California, San Diego)

Bargaining unit: A group of employees that has been certified as appropriate to be represented by a union for the purposes of collective bargaining. (Washington State Office of Financial Management)

Closed shop: Refers to an establishment where only members of a union can be hired. (United States History website)

Collective bargaining: A process in which working people, through their unions, negotiate contracts with employers to determine their terms of employment, including pay, health care, pensions and other benefits, hours, leave, job health and safety policies, ways to balance work and family, mechanism for collecting mandatory dues, and more. Employees jointly decide their priorities for bargaining. In collective bargaining, the union always has a collective interest since the negotiations are for the benefit of several employees. (AFL-CIO and the U.S. Department of Labor)

Collective bargaining agreement: Written, legally enforceable contract for a specified period (usually three years in the United States), between the management of an organization and its employees represented by an independent trade union. It sets down and defines conditions of employment (wages, working hours and conditions, overtime payments, holidays, vacations, benefits, etc.) and procedures for dispute resolution. Also called labor agreement, union agreement or union contract. (BusinessDictionary.com)

Economies of scale: Factors that cause the average cost of producing something to fall as the volume of its output increases; the cost advantage that arises with increased output of a product. (The Economist, Investopedia)

Notice of Petition: To start the election process, a petition and associated documents must be filed, preferably electronically, with the nearest NLRB Regional Office showing support for the petition from at least 30% of employees. NLRB agents will then investigate to make sure the Board has jurisdiction, the union is qualified, and there are no existing labor contracts or recent elections that would bar an election. Shortly after the petition is filed, the employer is required to post a Notice of Petition for Election in conspicuous places, including all places where notices to employees are customarily posted. If the employer customarily communicates with employees in the petitioned-for unit through electronic means, the employer must also distribute the Notice of Petition for Election electronically to those employees. (National Labor Relations Board)

Tuition-driven: Refers to higher education institutions where tuition income pays most of their operating costs. (Point of View, The Chronicle Review, The Chronicle of Higher Education)

Union authorization card: This is a document giving your permission for the union to represent you and requires your signature. (University of California, Berkeley). An authorization card is a union organizer’s first step toward establishing a union as your exclusive bargaining unit. The union authorization card is legally binding on the employee (USLegal.com).

Union dues: The basic fees employees pay on a monthly basis to the union in order to obtain membership rights. The amount of dues is set by the union and can vary greatly from union to union. (Washington State Office of Financial Management)

Union shop: An establishment where the employer, by agreement, is free to hire nonmembers, as well as members of the union, but retains nonmembers on the payroll only on condition of their becoming members of the union within a specified time. (Merriam-Webster)