Signing a Mission Statement vs. A Union Card

The Campus Faculty Association Organizing Committee has been talking with colleagues  about campus issues and collective bargaining. We’d like to address some questions regarding what a signature on our Mission Statement means, and what it does not mean.

1. Is the mission statement the same as a union authorization card?

NO. A union card is unmistakable―when you see one, you’ll know it! The Mission Statement is quite different―it is a non-binding show of support for the principles in the document, including collective bargaining for faculty at UIUC. Signing  the Mission Statement indicates a likelihood of supporting a union if an election is held later, but it does not mean the signer has voted in a card check election now.

A union card, to be valid under Illinois law, needs to meet certain legal requirements. It must include a statement that authorizes the named organization “to be the exclusive bargaining representative.” This language is not on the CFA Mission Statement but is present when there is a union card check campaign underway. The union cards are then filed with the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board to be validated and counted in an election, while the Mission Statement is a sign of support for the CFA’s principles and for collective bargaining.

2. Is there a union card drive on campus right now?

NO. There is no card drive election going on. We are talking with colleagues across the university about campus issues and collective bargaining, but this is not the same as a card drive election.

3. How did faculty at UIC vote for the union?

Faculty led the campaign at UIC. The card check election at UIC was an open, democratic process―faculty organizers, assisted by staff, collected cards authorizing UIC United Faculty/AFT/IFT/AAUP as the certified bargaining agents for the faculty as whole. The union cards met all the strict legal requirements. Some faculty opposed forming a faculty union but an absolute majority of all faculty eligible for membership in the collective bargaining unit signed the cards. In fact, the faculty at UIC voted twice for a faculty union. In 2012, they brought back a second, larger majority of cards after the administration challenged the first vote.

Please contact us by email if you would like more information on CFA and collective bargaining.

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3 responses to “Signing a Mission Statement vs. A Union Card

  1. Thanks, Jim. I am glad to see your interest in being as straightforward as possible about what is, and is not, occurring in the union campaign.

    I have never heard anyone refer to an ongoing card campaign, and I do not think there is any confusion about that. However, I have heard many thoughtful people ask the following questions, which CFA might consider answering here:

    1) Once you have collected signatures, what will you do with them? Will records be kept of which individuals signed? If so, why? If not, how you will dispose of the records?

    2) When you ask your colleagues to sign a paper supporting the CFA mission statement, which includes an explicit and unique reference to collective bargaining as the way to “balance the power of the administration with a strong faculty voice,” do you emphasize that signing that document in no way implies any obligation to sign a union card later on? If not, why not?

    3) If CFA is only concerned with gauging degree of interest in unionization, why is it necessary to go door to door, interrupting faculty members in their offices and making uninvited return visits if the first visit does not result in a signature? Why not simply put up an online poll, or allow for a voluntary and non-intrusive way to express interest?

    4) As you were told months ago at a meeting of the Senate Executive Committee, faculty members have related accounts of door-to-door visits being so insistent as to border on harassment. What is CFA doing to make sure your door-to-door representatives enact the principles of democracy and openness that your mission statement espouses, and in particular how do you make sure that they do not impose on the time or attentions of your colleagues or make uninvited return visits?

    5) We have been told that CFA has been engaged in its door-to-door campaign for 18 months now. How long do you intend to keep up this campaign? Have you contemplated calling an end to the door-to-door campaign if you do not get enough signatures by a certain date? If so, what is that date? If there is no end date, why not?

    Thanks, Jim. I look forward to learning more about these questions.

  2. Here is a reply to Joyce’s questions above, from Jim Barrett, CFA President.

    Dear Joyce,
    We have provided answers to most of this several times before. However, I will try to do so again here.

    As you know, the claim that signatures on the statement of purpose may be used as legal proof of support for collective bargaining continues to be repeated, despite the fact that this is absolutely impossible. So, yes, a number of those in opposition, including the Provost of the University and its Chief legal counsel, have implied that this is, in effect, a card campaign. When this distortion is made over and over, despite documentation to the contrary, one begins to wonder where ignorance of the process ends and a conscious effort to mislead faculty begins. Such efforts may be designed to discourage faculty from even expressing an opinion on this question, but if they are the effort is not working.

    We acknowledge that you do not share our goal of an academic union for faculty, and you do not like how we are going about it. In turn, we ask you to recognize that the activity we are engaged in is legitimate and legal and that we are scrupulously following a pattern recognized in Illinois law, one that was used in recent union efforts at UIC, the U of Oregon, and elsewhere. It sometimes seems that objections to our conversations with colleagues have less to do with our own campus union and its methods and more with labor law, government policy, and democratic process.

    We are using faculty signatures to judge opinion regarding collective bargaining. I should note that we offer any faculty member who prefers it the option to sign the mission statement confidentially. In some departments, there is clearly fear of retribution, especially among untenured colleagues or those awaiting promotion to full.
    Since conversations “behind closed doors” have been invoked by those in opposition to convey a sense of intrigue, I should explain that. We have no reason to close the door. We are often asked to do so, however, apparently out of fear. It saddens us that some colleagues feel they cannot express their opinions openly,but we understand this, given the campaign against the union by some faculty and administrators.

    Faculty organizers normally come from outside the department, so they are not in a position to intimidate faculty. Obviously, administrators and senior, well-connected anti-union faculty are. Although campus policy does not require us to do so, we ask colleagues for private email addresses and thus avoid using university email whenever possible.

    Regarding claims of harassment: We trust our colleagues to tell us if they don’t want to talk. As we’ve said repeatedly, if someone says they are not interested in discussing collective bargaining, we leave and make a note not to contact them again. The only situation in which an organizer might return more than once is if a colleague expresses no opinion and wants time to think about the question. The claim of harassment is easy to make and more difficult to document. For this reason, we have not raised it, even in those cases where organizers have been verbally abused or accosted while engaged in a perfectly legal activity. For some faculty, a knock on the door and a simple question might be viewed as harassment, though clearly it is not. Such claims of harassment can easily become another way to discourage the organizing activity and is perhaps it is being used this way in some cases.

    As to the expected duration of the organizing activity, we are engaged in two thousand conversations across campus, listening to faculty concerns and understanding faculty issues, from pay and benefits to health and safety. These conversations are extensive because we want to know what the entire faculty thinks about critical issues, not just the Senate. We’ll continue listening to and talking about these concerns as long as the university is a space for public, collegial discourse.

    The decision as to whether or not to proceed to a card drive will be made when we have completed our assessment of the faculty.

    Very best,

    Jim Barrett

  3. Thanks for this thoughtful essay, Jim.
    I do not see here any direct response to the five specific questions I posed. While I have always been clear about the legality of a union campaign on our campus, I am still wondering about those five issues. I think others are too.

    Joyce

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