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
- University response to faculty unionization
- Faculty and staff rights
- Unionization FAQs and resources
- Union organizing campaign status
- Unionization authorization cards FAQ
- Union dues and obligations FAQ
- Unions and Catholic universities
- Potential impact of unions
- Shared governance
- Recent efforts to improve work life at Saint Martin’s
- Saint Martin’s budget and comparative data
- Glossary of terms
Recent updates to this page
[page last updated 2/28/2017]
- Added the email "What can faculty do without a union" [6/6/2016]
- Added the emails "Community Announcement" and "Union election votes have been counted" [6/30/2016]
- Added Message from the President regarding the March 1 walkout [2/28/2017]
University response to faculty unionization
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.
- Board of Trustees resolution on faculty unionization [3/24/2016]
- Abbot Neal Roth, OSB, email to faculty and staff [3/29/2016]
- President Roy Heynderickx, Ph.D., email to faculty and staff [4/1/2016]
- Joint email from Abbot Neal Roth, OSB and President Roy Heynderickx, Ph.D. to faculty and staff [4/7/2016]
- Belltower opinion-editorial message: “A Call for Consensus” [4/11/2016]
- Provost Molly Smith, Ph.D., email to faculty [4/14/2016]
- Board of Trustees Chairman and Vice Chairman email to campus community [4/19/2016]
- University email to voting eligible contingent faculty [5/17/2016]
- Extended FAQ emailed to voting elibile contingent faculty [5/25/2016]
- President Roy Heynderickx, Ph.D., email to contingent faculty reflecting on the listening sessions [5/29/16]
- SEIU finances and member obligations FAQ emailed to contingent faculty [6/2/2016]
- What can faculty do without a union FAQ emailed to faculty [6/4/2016]
- Message from the President: Union election votes have been counted [6/20/2016]
- Community Announcement email from Dr. Heynderickx [6/24/2016]
- Message from the President regarding the March 1 walkout [2/27/2017]
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.
Current faculty participation in shared governance
- 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.
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.
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)