What is a union?
The purpose of a union is to establish the right to collectively bargain a legally binding contract that protects employee compensation, benefits and sets workplace rights and job security. By banding together as employees and forming a union, we have more power and leverage to negotiate for better conditions.
What is the benefit of collective bargaining?
Currently, Blue School decides unilaterally on all our terms and conditions of employment: our compensation levels, what our benefits will be, and what our working conditions are. With a union, the School must bargain in good faith with us over all of these (and more) conditions of our employment, and cannot reduce our benefits without our union’s agreement. (Note: management cannot reduce benefits to retaliate against us for unionizing, or to force us to “bargain back” what we already have or to retaliate against us while we are organizing.)
Why Local 2110 of the UAW?
Local 2110 represents thousands of technical, office and professional workers throughout the area, including the professional and administrative staff of the Brooklyn Friends School, the Manhattan Country School, Columbia University, MoMA, the New Museum, the New-York Historical Society, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, the Tenement Museum, New York University, the ACLU, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and most recently, at the MFA Boston and PMA Maine. The International UAW is one of the most powerful unions in the country and provides our local union with resources and expertise to assist us in legal issues, organizing, civil rights, legislative action, and health and safety work.
Who is eligible to be in the union?
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) allows broad, multi-classification, multi-department bargaining units that share a community of interest. We think that all full and part-time teachers and school workers of all classifications can be included. Exceptions are high-level “managers” and supervisors with independent authority to hire, fire, discipline, reward, etc.
Can I lose my job for joining a union?
NO. It is illegal to retaliate against anyone for forming or joining a union. Hundreds of thousands of workers in every occupation, including non-profits and art museums, have formed, joined, and been active in their unions. Furthermore, with a union, employees have greater job protection because employers must affirmatively demonstrate that they have “just cause” before terminating an employee.
I’m in favor of the union, but I’m nervous about what my boss will think. Do I have to tell my boss that I signed a card and will vote for the union?
Supporting a union is completely legal and normal but it is up to you how open you want to be about your support. It is illegal for your supervisor or any member of management to ask you if you support or are organizing a union.
Is Blue School too financially vulnerable to sustain itself with a union, either due to the pandemic or because finances were precarious to begin with?
Without a union, the staff will never be a priority nor will we ever be able to influence how Blue School or its Board allocates resources. Currently, staff are low paid, conditions are unequal, and longevity is unsustainable for many staff. Without a union, we will continue to be low on the priority list, and will have no voice in our work lives.
Unionizing is not solely about bargaining for better wages. Plenty of much smaller institutions with lower operating budgets than Blue School have organized because staff want a voice in what happens to them. Unionization will give us the power as a group to demand a workplace that is fair and transparent, and requires that Blue School meet us as equals at the bargaining table.
There are problems at Blue School, but isn’t management trying to address them?
Without a union, even if leadership temporarily addresses an issue, it can be rolled back at any time. By organizing a union, management legally has to meet to bargain with our union over workplace concerns. This is the only long-term and sustainable means to address systemic problems. With a union, you are also protected from retaliation, and so, will be able to speak with protections in airing such grievances.
If we have a union, will the School lay people off?
It would be illegal for Blue School to lay people off simply for forming a union. However, without a union, the School can lay off, reduce or replace whoever and whenever they choose. Virtually all the union contracts in Local 2110 require management to act in good faith, justify any layoff with hard information about the reason, provide notice and severance to anyone affected, and to consider anyone who has been laid off for future vacancies for which they qualify.
Can Blue School stop this?
Many employers campaign aggressively against unionization and try to discourage staff from voting YES for a union. It’s not illegal for management to express their opinion, but employers use misinformation and distortion to disparage unionization campaigns. And the following actions are illegal. Remember “TIPS”:
- Threaten – it is illegal to threaten, discipline, or discriminate against employees because of their support for a union;
- Interrogate – it is illegal to ask employees about their support for a union or about the support of their peers;
- Promise – it is illegal to promise favors or benefits for a vote against unionizing instead of a vote for the union;
- Surveil – it is illegal to surveil or spy on union activity. It is also illegal to tell an employee that others have said they are a union supporter.
If Blue School Conducts an Anti-Union Campaign, what would it be like?
Employers use misinformation, misleading information and disinformation about unions as their main weapon. Some employers have called special “information” sessions to present staff with negative information about unionizing. Some employers issue misleading FAQs or other written communications, or use supervisors to communicate directly with staff. Often such communications focus on dues, strikes, allegations of union corruption and claims that unionization will create rigid rules and loss of flexibility. In educational institutions, employers sometimes try to falsely pit the interests of students against those of the workers or “guilt-trip” workers about wanting a union. Sometimes employers make promises to be better or ask for “another chance.” Most anti-union campaigns try to portray the union as an outside entity, instead of what it really is: staff members themselves banding together for collective power and leverage.
If a manager does approach you directly, here are some ways to respond:
“Thanks for your feedback, but I would rather not discuss this.”
“Forming a union is my legal and democratic right.”
“We support forming a union because it will make Blue School an even better workplace for us all.”
In large meetings or “information” sessions, you should feel empowered to challenge misinformation and to make statements of your personal support! The goal isn’t to change management’s mind, but to demonstrate support to your colleagues and dispel misinformation.
Will the union interfere with my workload/work schedule/mission of the workplace?
The union’s purpose is to create a better workplace for the staff. Moreover, it is up to us to decide what we all want to see in the contract and what is important to us. For example, in many Local 2110 contracts, members have successfully negotiated for flexible hours and schedules, leaves of absence, etc.
Will the union force everyone to receive the exact same salary?
NO. Local 2110 has never negotiated any contract which resulted in any employee’s pay being “leveled down” or cut. Study after study shows that unionized workers have generally higher compensation. It is very common to develop an agreement that can successfully accommodate employees with varying interests and in multiple classifications. Without a union, however, management can make unilateral changes in work rules, hours, pay or other working conditions.
Who decides on accepting a contract or going out on strike?
We do. All contract proposals are voted on by the entire membership in the workplace. We elect our own negotiating committee and we vote on whether to accept or reject a contract. Before a strike is even considered, we must vote to authorize it by a two thirds majority.
What are union dues?
There are no dues until after a first contract is negotiated and voted into effect by a majority of the members. After that, union dues are 2% of your regular (gross) wages (excluding overtime) deducted from your paycheck. If you are paid weekly, dues are deducted weekly, if you are paid bi-weekly, dues are deducted bi-weekly, etc. Union dues pay for the cost of maintaining and supporting a strong union, e.g., legal costs, staffing, equipment, supplies, rent, etc.
What about strikes?
Strikes are a pressure tactic of last resort and most contracts are settled without strikes. Local 2110 has negotiated many successful contracts without having to strike, by effectively using rallies, leaflet campaigns, social media and other peaceful tactics to win a fair contract. Strikes can only be implemented if the members themselves want to strike. Any strike would require at least a two thirds majority vote of union members. A strike can also be a powerful tactic. At MoMA, workers went on strike in 2000 to maintain their health benefits, increase their wages, and protect their rights as a union. The strike was effective — the staff won a great contract and has not had to have another strike in 20 years.
Who is excluded from the union under the NLRA?
Managers who have policy-making authority for the School and supervisors who use their independent judgement to assign, hire, fire, promote, layoff, discipline, etc. (Note: Those who oversee vendors, temps, volunteers, independent contractors or interns who are not in the unit are not supervisors under federal labor law.) Having the word “Manager” or “Supervisor” in your title is not enough to exclude you from the right to unionize. Security guards can unionize but under labor law, they must be in a separate union from other employees.
Are unions really appropriate for School employees/professionals?
Unionizing is becoming more and more common in our field. Thousands of teachers and school workers are already unionized in the public school system. More recently, workers in private, independent and charter schools have been unionizing.