DePaul University Academic Affairs > Faculty Resources > Adjunct Resources > Adjunct Union Organizing > Messages From DePaul
Later this week, I will have the honor of announcing the results of the first election for the new Workplace Environment Committee (WEC), a permanent representative body of adjunct faculty members who will hear, report, and suggest resolutions for workplace issues affecting the lives of adjunct faculty members across the university.
During the two-week WEC voting period that ended on Friday, I was disappointed to read in The DePaulia a letter to the editor from an anonymous group calling themselves the “SEIU Organizing Committee.” The letter misstated the facts about federal labor law and the requirements for becoming a WEC candidate. In doing so, the letter falsely called into question the legality and legitimacy of the WEC.
I felt compelled to write a response that was published in the The DePaulia, which you can read here: https://depauliaonline.com/24836/opinions/letter-setting-record-straight/
We must always remember that our discourse at DePaul is accepting of all viewpoints, but each should be grounded in intellectual honesty and truth.
Marten denBoerProvost, DePaul University
It has come to my attention that the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and a small group of faculty from the University of Chicago and Loyola University Chicago have sent a mailer to some of our adjunct and term faculty members that contains an “authorization card” and a letter urging them to sign and return the card. Because signing a union authorization card has significant implications for you and our university, I’d like you to have as much information as possible so you can make the choice that’s right for you.
A union authorization card is recognized by the U.S. government as a legal document that authorizes the union to act as your exclusive bargaining representative and signifies your willingness to pay dues if the union is certified. Once signed, it is difficult to revoke your authorization card if you change your mind. With signed cards from just 30 percent of the union’s desired bargaining unit, a representation election could be held. And, with signed cards from a majority of faculty members in whatever bargaining unit is eventually defined by the union, the union could demand recognition from DePaul without ever giving you the opportunity to vote in a representation election. As such, it is important to seek complete information about unionization, including its costs, workplace implications, and what can and cannot be guaranteed through collective bargaining, before deciding whether or not to sign a card.
To learn more, I invite you to visit go.depaul.edu/AdjunctInfoHub, our online resource that presents information about unionization—including your rights, contract comparisons, and resources DePaul makes available to you—and an opportunity for you to ask questions and have them answered. Please take a minute to visit the site. You can also sign up to receive updates.
DePaul is committed to providing an environment that recognizes the dignity and value of each individual. We deeply value our direct working relationship with all of you. I hope you have found, as I have in my first year at DePaul, that the university takes suggestions to heart, listens to what you say and that, as detailed on the website and in mailings to you, we are making positive changes in response.
We look forward to continuing to improve the ways we support our adjunct and term faculty, and I hope you will conclude that it is in your best interest that we do not interrupt the progress we are making and continue to work directly together.
I greatly appreciate your careful consideration of this matter and all you do to provide our students with an extraordinary education. Thank you very much.
Marten denBoer, PhDProvost
We have received reports that union organizers have visited adjunct faculty members at their homes without being invited and have waited for them outside of their classrooms in ways that have made them uncomfortable. Faculty members have also expressed concerns about their privacy, safety, and security.
Please know that DePaul did not provide union organizers with any faculty member’s home address, class schedule or any other contact information. We do not know how union organizers acquired this information; only the union can answer that question.
Union organizers are permitted to call you or approach you at your home, but there is no law or policy that requires faculty or staff to speak with union representatives either at home or in the workplace, and you are free to respond as you wish. If you ask the union not to contact you and your request is not respected, you may report it to the NLRB regional office at (312) 353-7570 or contact Public Safety at the Loop Campus (312-362-8400) or the Lincoln Park Campus (773-325-7777) or your local police department.
For more information about your rights, please visit go.depaul.edu/AdjunctInfoHub. If you would like more information, please don’t hesitate to use the “Submit Your Questions” feature on the website or ask me directly. We are committed to ensuring that your rights are respected and that you receive the information you need.
(Message shared by deans of each school and college)
As our adjunct faculty consider the question of union representation, a number of you have inquired about the nature of the religious concern DePaul and other Catholic institutions of higher education are raising. The concern is attached to the present labor issue, but is not actually a labor question, nor does it have anything to do with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) or the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), a second labor union now vying for our adjunct faculty’s membership. Instead, the issue comes from the manner in which the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently formulated its jurisdiction.
Since the Supreme Court and subsequent lower courts denied the NLRB jurisdiction over faith-based institutions in 1979, the NLRB has searched from time-to-time for ways around the ruling. Catholic universities in America became concerned four years ago when regional NLRB’s began determining their jurisdiction by asking our institutions such questions as whether our libraries were open on Sundays, all of our faculty and/or students were Catholic, or all of our students were required to study Catholicism. More recently, since a clarification provided in the case of Pacific Lutheran University, the NLRB has begun asking questions such as whether individual faculty are required to convey religion within their courses.
Such questions misunderstand, of course, that universities permit faculty the academic freedom to shape their courses as they think best, and that Catholic universities invite faculty of many faiths and none to join together in the larger religious mission of the institution. The more immediate issue, however, is that a government agency is attempting to determine—university-by-university—whether or not each institution is sufficiently religious to qualify for the exemption set out by the Supreme Court many years ago. This is a problem not limited to labor issues, but sets out a possible precedent where any government office could substitute and impose its own judgment for what constitutes religious activity, in this case dividing institutions and educators into mutually exclusive secular and religious spheres.
I tried to explain this at more length this morning in an editorial published by Inside Higher Ed. You can find the text of my editorial here. Some may interpret my editorial as an attempt to oppose unionization by raising a side issue of religious freedom, but in fact, it’s a genuine problem and completely independent of the local labor issue here in Chicago.
DePaul will continue to protect the right of our adjunct faculty to discuss whether they would prefer a union as their representative. You will also see DePaul, however, oppose the NLRB’s new formulated test as to which parts of our institution are sufficiently religious to be recognized by the government.
With great respect,
Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M.President
It has come to our attention that a DePaul adjunct faculty member may have been misled by a union organizer about the nature of a document the faculty member signed. Led to believe the “green card” was a request to receive more information about the union, the adjunct instructor signed the card and only later realized that in fact it was a union authorization card.
A union authorization card is a legal document, and by signing either a paper or electronic card, you are stating your desire for the union to be your exclusive representative for purposes of collective bargaining. In exchange, you would pay union dues amounting to hundreds of dollars per year. If the union collects the signature of just 30 percent of the members of a desired faculty bargaining unit, it can ask the National Labor Relations Board to set in motion a government-administered secret ballot union election.
If a union organizer was not forthcoming when asking you to sign a paper or electronic authorization card, or if you knowingly signed a card but have since changed your mind about being represented by the union, you can ask for your card back. It is against federal law for anyone to retaliate against you for doing so. Here are the steps to follow:
1. Write a letter stating that you withdraw your authorization for representation by the Service Employees International Union. Include your name, department and college at DePaul, sign, and date.
2. Mail your letter to: SEIU Local 73, 300 S. Ashland Avenue, 4th Floor Chicago, IL 60607-2701
3. Send a copy of your letter to the regional National Labor Relations Board office located at The Rookery Building, 209 South LaSalle Street, Suite 900 Chicago, IL 60604-5208
Before signing anything presented to you by a union organizer, carefully read the fine print and ask questions. What you might believe to be your request for more information or to not be contacted by the union could in fact be your authorization for union representation. We have posted information about your rights, the SEIU, the types of questions to consider asking a union organizer and additional information about card signing in the “Get the Facts” and “FAQs” sections of go.depaul.edu/AdjunctInfoHub.
We clearly recognize and support an employee’s right to choose to sign or not to sign and pledge that there will be no retaliation regardless of the choice you make.
On the other hand, if you feel you are being coerced or pressured by union organizers, feel free to inform John Culbert, Senior Advisor for Contingent Faculty in Academic Affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Members of the DePaul Community,
DePaul recently learned that someone identifying himself only as a “community organizer” has approached our adjunct faculty soliciting support for a faculty union at DePaul. We have learned that this individual is actually an external organizer from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). This type of union activity is frequently part of an effort to collect signed “union authorization” cards—the first step toward unionization. If indeed it is the SEIU targeting DePaul adjuncts, its actions are in line with its broader, national effort to unionize adjunct faculty, including those at universities in Chicago.
We respect the rights of our faculty to decide whether being represented by a union is in their best interest. We remain true to Catholic social teaching on workers’ rights and our mission by ensuring that faculty members have a voice. Further, we value our fundamental religious freedom rights, which are central to our mission as a Catholic university, and we intend to protect those rights throughout this process.
DePaul greatly values the contributions of its adjunct faculty and is committed to providing a rewarding and positive work environment. In acknowledgement of the vitally important role they play in educating our students, we believe we offer our adjunct faculty competitive pay. In addition, over the past several years, we have improved benefits and introduced advantageous work policies. These include a $500 bonus for the 2014-2015 academic year, eligibility for a pay raise in 2016, eligibility for teaching and grant awards, a course cancellation fee program, a redesigned hiring process, an online orientation program, a variable tuition waiver benefit based on number of credit hours taught and access to the university’s tax-deferred 403(b) retirement plan. In addition, eligible adjunct faculty have access to medical, vision, dental and life insurance; an employee assistance program; and backup childcare services.
Our preference is to maintain a direct working relationship with adjunct faculty—without interference from a third party that has no connection or commitment to DePaul and its students and that may not understand our culture and our values. We believe this will better assist our tenured faculty and department chairs to work closely with our adjunct faculty and empower us to build on the improvements that we have made and continue to make progress together as a community. We hope that adjunct faculty who are subject to a union organizing campaign feel the same way.
All faculty members are within their rights to communicate their position on unionization—for or against—and we encourage them to exercise that right. We urge adjunct faculty to arrive at a fully informed position on whether being represented by a union is in their best interests. As part of that effort, the university is committed to providing adjuncts transparent and trustworthy information. We have created an online resource, go.depaul.edu/AdjunctInfoHub, that provides factual information about unionization, card signing and what a union could potentially mean for faculty and our community. This website is open to anyone who would like to learn about unionization.
We appreciate your understanding of the dialogue taking place within our community.