An Important Message on the Upcoming Union Re-vote – 8/29/16
Dear Dornsife Teaching-Track Faculty Colleagues:
Last January, the Dornsife faculty voted to reject Local 721 of the Service Employees International Union. As you know, Local 721 refused to accept your decision, and instead lodged a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board that my messages to you about the likely effects of unionization on faculty governance interfered with your ability to make a “free and reasoned” choice. I think Local 721 seriously underestimates your ability to weigh the facts, evaluate the arguments on both sides, and decide for yourselves. Regardless, the union managed to convince the NLRB to set aside your vote and order a re-vote. (For details, please see my May letter posted at https://rtpc.usc.edu.) I am sorry you have to go through a vote again, but this re-vote is important to your future. Ballots will be mailed out September 14 and are due back to the NLRB by September 30.
It is important that you exercise your right to vote in this election. As was the case in the previous vote, a majority of those who actually cast ballots (not a majority of faculty within the school) will decide whether Local 721 becomes the exclusive collective bargaining representative of all Dornsife teaching-track faculty — including those who don’t vote. The January vote was quite close, and it is remarkable that a third of the faculty did not vote at all. My own hope is that this time you will make your rejection of unionization so clear that Local 721 can’t ignore your decision. Your own vote could be crucial.
I learned a lot during last year’s process from faculty who reached out to me. In addition, the closeness of January’s vote brought home to me that a number of you are frustrated enough to turn to an outside third party, SEIU Local 721. That in itself is a sign that we have work yet to do, and I am the first to acknowledge USC is far from perfect.
We have made good progress over the past several years, through USC’s system of collegial shared governance. Dornsife’s teaching-track faculty have made strides that teaching-track faculty at most universities, unionized or not, can only aspire to achieve. These include:
· three-to-five year contracts for 60% of all full-time faculty – that is, for 100% of those who are promoted
· excellent benefits at 50% time
· full academic freedom for all, including full and part-time faculty
· a faculty-led system of promotion opportunities
· a process to approve outside teaching
Most important is the voice and vote that both full-time and part-time faculty at Dornsife have through shared governance. Dornsife teaching-track faculty continue to hold a majority of the Dornsife Faculty Council and to chair key Academic Senate committees. USC’s shared governance has worked well for faculty, as to both employment topics and academic and managerial issues.
Senate committees and school faculty councils helped develop the Academic Senate resolution on:
· salary benchmarking
· salary appeals to the Provost, and
· merit raises for part-time faculty
I gladly approved this resolution as well as resolutions related to increasing equity and inclusion, academic collaboration and scholarly attribution, rigor and transparency in research, part-time faculty policies, and teaching-track faculty titles and designation.
Under our system of shared governance, we have a competitive advantage over collective bargaining because we can have direct, collegial, and cooperative discussions regarding faculty employment issues between the Academic Senate, faculty councils and committees, and the administration. We can also be nimble and flexible and, for example, not have contracts that are fixed in place for years at a time.
In my personal opinion, Local 721 would not be good for either you or the university. I don’t say this because I am afraid that Local 721 will be a great bargainer on your behalf. Rather, I don’t think Local 721 has shown any real plan to meet your needs. Nor has it demonstrated that it knows much about you or about USC. For example, if it knew more about USC it would not have picked a year to target us when both the Academic Senate and Dornsife Faculty Council were led by teaching-track faculty, and then argue that you couldn’t speak for yourselves and needed Local 721 to have a voice. Its paid organizers showed up at your homes, classrooms, and offices as part of their national campaign “metro strategy” because we were next on their list, after they were unsuccessful in their campaign to unionize Loyola Marymount University.
Teaching-track faculty are vital to achieving the academic goals of Dornsife College, and USC has to keep on working hard to provide the conditions under which faculty — all faculty — can flourish. More information on what USC’s shared governance has achieved for teaching-track faculty will be posted at https://rtpc.usc.edu.
I hope you will give USC’s shared governance a chance to continue its record of advancing compensation, benefits, and terms of employment for all faculty.
Michael W. Quick