Below are some answers to commonly asked questions
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is a labor union?
A: A labor union is a collective bargaining unit. Employees with similar roles join together to negotiate with workplace administration as a collective.
Q: What union are we joining?
A: We are voting to form a chapter of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 200United.
Q: Why this particular union?
A: SEIU is well-established and experienced working with faculty. SEIU Local 200United represents higher education workers across Upstate New York at over 30 colleges and universities including Siena, Vassar, Colgate, and Saint Lawrence; other chapters represent over 60 campuses nationwide. You can read more about SEIU Faculty Forward victories at other campuses.
Q: How is the organizing committee established?
A: The organizing committee is composed of volunteers from a number of different departments and includes both part-time and full-time faculty. This is an open committee, with new volunteers welcome. Interested faculty can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to volunteer.
Q: Why did we file for membership now?
A: A: By the beginning of April 2022, a clear majority (65%) of Skidmore’s `non-tenure track (NTT) faculty expressed their desire to act immediately to form a union. Because the process can take time, it was important not to delay filing any further.
Q: Who is eligible for membership?
A: All NTT faculty at Skidmore, both full-time and part-time, including Librarians and Accompanists.
Q: How are the bargaining units organized?
A: Full-time and part-time faculty will vote separately to establish parallel units, one for each cohort. These units will then remain linked as members of a single campus chapter and will work and bargain together during the negotiation period.
Q: How much will I pay in dues?
A: Dues are assessed on a sliding scale based on your annual salary, capped at no more than $77/month. Part-time lecturers can expect their dues to be approximately $35 to $40/month, collected only during the months that they teach. Dues will not be collected from any members until we ratify our initial contract.
Q: What are dues used for?
A: The dues support the costs of running the union: stipends for chapter leadership, legal aid, SEIU staff and support salaries, and other administrative costs. Union dues are not used for political purposes.
Q: What’s the process for forming a union?
A: It has several stages:
Organizing: Over the last few years, NTT faculty have engaged in conversations about what our needs are, changes we would like to see, and how a union might meet those goals. Interested individuals volunteered to form an organizing committee to reach out to faculty.
Commitment: Organizing committee members collected union authorization cards from interested individuals. These document attest to their support for forming a union. 65% of Skidmore’s NTT faculty signed union authorization cards.
Public announcement and response: On April 27th, we publicly announced that we had a majority of NTT faculty support. We offered the administration the opportunity to acknowledge that majority through voluntary recognition. President Conner declined.
Filing for an election: On May 5th, we filed with the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election by mail.
Voting: Voting takes place Sept 12-Sept 26 by mail via a secret ballot election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board. You’ll receive a ballot, indicate your support or opposition to forming a union, and return the ballot by mail. In order to unionize, we need 50% + 1 votes in favor.
Negotiating: Once we’ve established a union, we’ll democratically determine our negotiating priorities. We’ll create a bargaining committee (up to 10-15% of the bargaining unit) to represent our members in negotiations. Those representatives can be self-nominated or, if the number of interested parties significantly exceeds available positions, can be elected from a pool of nominees. The bargaining committee, with the support of SEIU, will meet with the administration to negotiate our contract. First contracts typically take between 12 and 18 months to be finalized; subsequent contracts are often negotiated more quickly.
Signing a contract: Once a tentative agreement is reached with the administration, the bargaining committee would present that agreement to our membership for ratification. A contract must be ratified by a simple majority of the member votes cast. Once ratified, the contract goes into effect.
Governing: Once a union has been established and a contract ratified and signed, we elect our own chapter leadership, usually called chapter stewards. Once elected, our colleagues would be responsible for enforcing and administering our contract and working with the membership to maintain a strong, democratic union.
Q: When exactly will the election take place?
A: The NLRB, in consultation with the college and the organizing committee, has set the election dates for September 12th-26th, 2022. At this time, ballots will be mailed out to all eligible members’ home addresses (as listed in Oracle), and completed ballots must arrive at the voting center before the end of that period. Votes will be counted on September 27th by the NLRB.
Q: How were these terms and dates established
A: Organizers initially proposed a summer election and a single bargaining unit. The college administration insisted on separate bargaining units and a fall election in exchange for dropping their objection to the managerial status of full-time NTT faculty. On the advice of SEIU legal support, the organizing committee agreed to these terms to prevent a lengthy legal battle.
Q: Will anyone know how I voted?
A: No. Ballots are completely anonymous. The college administration will know which members cast a ballot and which didn’t, but the ballots are tallied by NLRB representatives to preserve anonymity.
Q: Who will negotiate on behalf of all NTT faculty?
A: A committee of Skidmore NTT faculty will negotiate our contract, with the support of experienced SEIU negotiators. This representative committee will be chosen democratically by union members.
Q: How will we decide our negotiating priorities? Who shapes this policy?
A: Our negotiating priorities will be determined through a collaborative process in which all NTT faculty are encouraged to participate. There will be meetings open to all, smaller gatherings of faculty with similar interests, and member polls–lots of opportunities to participate and contribute. At every step, it will be a democratic process open to every member.
Q: What can we include in negotiations?
A: While compensation is usually a major element of negotiations, there are lots of other areas that can also be included. Other local SEIU chapters have prioritized some of the following in their collective bargaining agreements: job security and contract length, additional or increased benefits, office space, professional development funding, and pathways to promotion. As a Skidmore chapter, we’ll get to decide together what we want to prioritize.
Q: How long before a new contract will take effect?
A: The first contract, or collective bargaining agreement, can take several months of negotiations; this agreement sets the standard for following contracts and as such will involve a detailed agreement. Other local SEIU chapters reached initial agreements after one to two years of negotiations, so it would be reasonable to expect our process to mirror those. We will mount a comprehensive contract campaign to expedite the bargaining process.
Q: Will a new contract eliminate my current retirement, health care, or other benefits?
A: No. After we filed for election on May 5th, all benefits were frozen in their current state and will remain in place until negotiations for the first contract conclude. When we begin negotiations, it’s standard practice to memorialize existing benefits as a contractual floor–that is, we can write into that contract that the benefits offered now can never be reduced, only improved upon. Union membership can then decide, in our pre-negotiation conversations, which benefits we’d like to prioritize improving.
Still have questions? Email email@example.com and an organizer will get back to you!