Status on SEIU/Loyola Hearing
December 3, 2015
In one of my earlier communications to you on the subject of SEIU Local 73’s attempt to organize our non-tenure-track faculty, I confirmed that this is a process, and one that will play out over the next several weeks. On Wednesday, the process continued forward as Loyola and SEIU representatives attended a hearing at the Chicago office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The reason for the hearing is to decide two issues: First, whether the NLRB has jurisdiction over Loyola; and second, if the NLRB does have jurisdiction over Loyola, what is the appropriate voting (or bargaining) unit for an election.
I would like to explain the University’s position on these two crucial issues. First, Loyola embraces Jesuit and Catholic teachings that respect the dignity of working men and women and call for fair pay and safe working conditions. Additionally, what is at stake here, is Loyola’s guaranteed First Amendment rights of religious freedom and autonomy—essentially our right to define our own mission and to govern our institution in accordance with our values and beliefs, free from government entanglement. The United States Supreme Court long ago ruled that the First Amendment provides an exemption from NLRB jurisdiction in order to protect an institution's religious liberty and identity. We are not alone in raising this issue, as religious institutions across the country have opposed NLRB jurisdiction in similar union-organizing situations on the same grounds that we have raised. Our position before the NLRB is not driven by anti-worker sentiment or hostility to organized labor. By raising the jurisdictional issue at the hearing, we are simply seeking to maintain our right to religious freedom, to protect the heart and soul of our institution and its mission.
The second issue discussed at Wednesday’s hearing focuses on the definition and scope of the voting unit, sometimes referred to as the bargaining unit. The SEIU’s petition sought to represent a portion of our full-time and part-time graduate and undergraduate non-tenure-track faculty (Adjuncts, Adjunct Professors, Adjunct Instructors, Adjunct Lecturers, Accompanists, Instructors, Lecturers, Lab Instructors, Senior Lecturers, and Visiting Faculty) who are working in some of the academic programs that are housed at our Lake Shore Campus, including the College of Arts and Sciences, the English Language Learning Program, and The Graduate School. At the hearing, the SEIU amended its petition, which now includes all of our full-time and part-time non-tenure-track faculty who are teaching in the College of Arts and Sciences, including those that may be teaching classes at the Water Tower Campus. The SEIU is now excluding from its petition faculty members in the English Language Learning Program and The Graduate School.
We don’t know why the Union is focusing only on a narrow sub-group of our non-tenured faculty; why they are including only some departments/programs and not others; and why they are including faculty who have such a wide variance in hours, faculty rights and responsibilities, class schedules, and relationships to the University. The distinctions they draw are so arbitrary, it is legitimate to ask whether they seek to construct a group of only their supporters, instead of including all who share a community of interest.
The NLRB hearing will likely continue into early next week. After the hearing concludes, the NLRB regional office in Chicago will issue a ruling. If the NLRB regional office rules that it has jurisdiction over Loyola, it will also decide on the scope of the voting unit, and an election will be scheduled. We commit to providing you with those details as soon as possible. Please know that the NLRB hearing process does include certain appeal rights, so the above process is subject to potential appeals.
Why Am I Getting So Many Updates?
You may ask why we are providing you information about the SEIU, collective bargaining, and the election/voting process if there is a chance there will be no election. The reason is that this process moves very quickly, at least at this stage. If there is an election, we want to make sure you have access to, and adequate time to consider, all the facts. We want you to have time to conduct your own research and to talk amongst yourselves, and with us, about the issues. The risk of not giving you enough information, or giving it to you too late, is unacceptable. In the spirit of transparency and open dialogue, we would rather err on the side of giving you the information you need to make an informed choice, even if there is a degree of uncertainty about whether an election will take place.
Thank you for your continued engagement during this process. Please also remember to utilize LUC.edu/seiupetition as you seek out information on what it means to be a part of a union.
Thomas M. Kelly
Senior Vice President for Administrative Services