Frequently Asked Questions - Notre Dame de Namur

Q. Why are NDNU faculty forming a Union?

A. We are forming a union to gain a stronger voice in faculty governance, improve working conditions, and safeguard the quality of our academic programs. Over the last decade, we've grown increasingly concerned about the deteriorating working conditions of faculty here. Although our students' tuition has increased 13% over the past five years, faculty salaries have stagnated and are now the lowest in the entire Bay Area. Many faculty experience a lack of support and transparency in the administration's dealings with us. 

The deterioration of faculty working conditions conflicts with NDNU's mission statement: "[The University] serves its students and the community by providing excellent professional and liberal arts programs." Many part-time faculty members have no office space on campus where they can meet individually with students, and they receive no compensation to attend department meetings. NDNU's current Strategic Plan erroneously claims that "NDNU supports student learning through professional development of faculty"—when, in fact, only a small portion of the 234 faculty who have taught here over the past nine months have received any release time or financial support to attend professional development events.

We are forming a union to gain a stronger role in shaping NDNU's direction and priorities. Through collective bargaining, we can have a greater voice on teaching resources and tenure lines. For part-time and non-tenure track faculty, this means securing fair pay, greater job security, and support for professional development and scholarship. Having a union will allow us to negotiate over workplace issues that affect our ability to be excellent teachers: salaries, benefits, workloads, and the number of tenure-track positions. 

Q. What is the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)? Why SEIU?

A. SEIU offers us the support and expertise we require. Faculty in the California State University system are members of SEIU, and SEIU also has organized a number of Catholic colleges and universities, including St. Mary's College of California, Dominican University, and Trinity Washington University, a Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur school.  Historically, SEIU started by organizing cafeteria workers and workers in other service industries, but now they have branched out, with more than 2 million members. They are very familiar with Catholic institutions, having organized the therapists and case managers at Catholic Charities. The number of members in SEIU Local 1021 alone is over 55,000.

Q. Who will be in charge of our union?

A. We the faculty will be in charge of our union. By unionizing with SEIU, we authorize SEIU to be our bargaining agent. SEIU will contribute staff time and expertise to a faculty-governed process. We will elect a union leadership team, and we will elect a bargaining team to negotiate our first contract. We will decide by majority vote whether to ratify or reject any proposed contract.

Q. What’s the process of forming a union?

A. The first step is to sign and return a confidential union Membership Card and Authorization form. As soon as possible, we will ask President Judith Greig to voluntarily recognize a union of the entire faculty, which she has the right to do under federal law.  If she refuses to voluntarily recognize our union, we will file our cards with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Next, the NLRB would conduct a secret-ballot election by mail, which would be decided by a majority of voters.

Q. What will a union mean for faculty governance?

A. The collective power of a union will strengthen our participation in shared governance. For example, at the University of San Francisco, the collective bargaining agreement is very similar to our current Faculty Handbook, which includes the bylaws of our Faculty Senate. In the California State University system, the faculty contract explicitly recognizes “the unique roles and responsibilities of the Academic Senate(s),” thus enhancing and codifying the role of the Senate. In the California State system, the Faculty Senate governs academic issues, while the union negotiates workplace/employment issues. Our Faculty Senate currently represents all full and part-time faculty, but it has no real decision-making authority. We could change this through collective bargaining—doing so is in line with the 2015 WASC Report recommendation to clarify "whether the Senate is a decision-making group with its own initiatives and autonomy, or a place for voicing concerns and reacting to other bodies."

Q. How much will union dues be? What will dues be used for?

A. As members of SEIU Local 1021, union dues are 1.74% of our salaries. No one pays any dues until we have: 1) officially formed our union; 2) bargained our first contract; and 3) voted as a group to approve our contract. So we won't pay any money before we know exactly what gains we’ve achieved through bargaining. We will decide whether our first contract is worth our dues money. Union dues support contract negotiations and maintenance, representation, and other things that directly benefit union members.

Q. Can I be harassed, discriminated against, or laid off for signing a union card? 

A. No. Neither the administration nor your department chair will ever see signed union cards; they won't know if you signed one or not.  These cards are safeguarded so that people can feel free to support unionization. The cards also recognize and respect adjuncts right to organize and get to a speedy recognition so bargaining can commence. It is illegal for anyone on this campus to retaliate in any way against anyone joining the union. Federal laws protect employees who want to unionize. Faculty at Dominican unionized with SEIU a year ago and are close to ratifying their contract now, and a Dominican sister serves on their negotiation team. What a scandal it would be for NDNU if anything like that happened here—it would quickly become public and destroy the university's reputation as an institution committed to social justice.

Q. What can I do to support the unionization effort?

A. Sign our online petition:

http://facultyforward-seiu1021.nationbuilder.com/petition_to_notre_dame

The petition explains the reason behind unionization and asks for a signature of support for our right to organize as a union!