Contingent Faculty Unionization
We have learned that through their “Faculty Forward” organizing initiative, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is working to unionize contingent faculty within St. John Fisher College.
St. John Fisher College is a collaborative community that fosters direct communication among all of its members. The Board of Trustees values employee involvement and perspectives on a range of issues related to College operations. This proven approach enables employees, administration, and the Board to seek alignment on institutional priorities and engage in active discussions that provide necessary input to the decision-making process. The ability of each constituent group's members to communicate directly with one another is a hallmark of this institution.
Given the Board's commitment to open, direct communication between stakeholders within the College, we believe that an outside union is contrary to this environment and could be potentially harmful to a system that has served the College well for more than 70 years. The College recognizes the right of its employees to decide whether or not they want union representation, but the success achieved by the College, its employees, and students has come about through direct collaboration, and we believe that it will continue best without unwarranted interference from an outside organization in the day-to-day operations of the institution.
To support contingent faculty's right to make an informed choice, we want to ensure that everyone has complete, accurate information. We also encourage you to gather as much information as possible, ask questions, explore the pros and cons of unionization, thoroughly examine the associated complex issues, and make an informed and reasoned decision.
We will be updating this website regularly – please check back frequently for new postings.
General Union FAQs
What is "Faculty Forward?"
"Faculty Forward" is a marketing initiative used nationwide by the Service Employees International Union to unionize college and university faculty.
The Service Employees International Union was founded in Chicago in 1921 as the Building Services Employees Union. Its first members were janitors, elevator operators, and window washers. Since then, the SEIU has grown to nearly 2 million members, the majority of whom are service workers in hospitality and healthcare in both the United States and Canada.
Rather than focus on a specific industry or job category as many unions do, the SEIU organizes new members through national organizing initiatives, like "Faculty Forward," that market the union to large groups of workers holding the same jobs. Other examples include:
- "Justice for Janitors"
- "Stand for Security"
- "Fight for $15," with separate organizing initiatives for child care workers, home care workers, fast food workers and WalMart employees
- The "SEIU Nurse Alliance"
"Faculty Forward" is not a union: it does not sit at the bargaining table to negotiate contracts, nor does it assist with worker grievances. Just as a Sales Department hands a new customer off to the Service Department once a sale is completed, "Faculty Forward" hands newly-unionized faculty off to the SEIU Local union within whose jurisdiction those faculty work. For contingent faculty at St. John Fisher College, this is "SEIU Local 200United."
How do SEIU local unions function?
In most unions, when a group of workers within an organization is unionized into a bargaining unit, they become a local union of their own. The members then run their local union by:
- Electing local union officers who are other bargaining unit members with whom they work every day
- Developing local union bylaws that govern their local union
- Holding regular membership meetings
In contrast, when workers are organized into a bargaining unit within SEIU, they do not set up their own local union. Instead, the SEIU International Union places them into an existing SEIU "mega-local" that already has officers, bylaws, and thousands of members in a wide variety of different industries. The newly-unionized bargaining unit becomes a "chapter" within that local. "SEIU Local 200United" is the local that covers upstate New York. While chapter members do elect chapter officers, the powers of those officers are strictly limited, as the Constitution and Bylaws of Local 200United make clear:
7.8 Authority of Chapter Officers. Chapter officers and stewards shall be the principal leaders of SEIU 200United within each Chapter. Chapter officers and stewards shall not have any authority in any matter, either directly or indirectly, to make any changes in wages, hours, or working conditions of the members nor to grant any new demands that are contrary or in any way different to the wages, hours, or working conditions in existence pursuant to the applicable collective bargaining agreement. Neither shall Chapter officers have authority that extends beyond their Chapter except as otherwise provided herein.
What is SEIU Local 200United?
Several years ago, the SEIU combined local unions into "mega-locals," each with thousands of members. The SEIU Local 200United web site describes this change:
"Prior to the creation of 200United, much of Upstate NY was divided into smaller locals; we were originally Local 200 A, B, C & D. In 2000, when Service Employee International Union (SEIU) announced an effort to build industry-focused locals on a state-wide basis (New Strength Unity), it was logical to tap SEIU Local 200B, to provide the core union voice for working families in Upstate New York. SEIU Local 200United was chartered in June of 2001 by combining area local unions into one core Upstate Union of Building and Public Service workers."
Only recently has Local 200United begun to represent contingent faculty, all of whom were organized via "Faculty Forward" or its predecessor, "Adjunct Action." Below is the Local 200United web site list of the types of organizations "where we work:"
- School Districts (37 worksites, primarily service workers)
- Colleges & Universities (non-faculty) (23 worksites)
- Municipalities (22 worksites)
- Human Services (20 worksites)
- Property Services (19 worksites)
- Janitorial (15 worksites)
- Cemeteries (9 worksites)
- Non-Tenure Track Faculty (9 worksites)
- Sports Division (6 worksites)
- Hospitals (6 worksites)
- Emergency Medical Services (4 worksites)
- Parking (3 worksites)
- Miscellaneous (3 worksites):
- Buffalo Trotting, Raceway
- Retired Members Local 200United
- New York State Fair Ticket Takers
A bargaining unit of contingent faculty within St. John Fisher College would have a very small voice within the local union that speaks for them: Local 200United has approximately 15,500 members who, in accordance with the Local's Constitution and Bylaws, are governed by a 29-member Executive Board elected by the members. Presently, no member of the Executive Board is a faculty member at a college or university.
Why does the SEIU have "mega-local" unions?
Many have criticized the SEIU's structure of mega-locals, arguing that because locals are highly consolidated, national leadership can maintain firm control over internal politics and elections to the detriment of local or industry specific concerns. These concerns led to the formation of "SEIU Member Activists for Reform Today" (SMART), a national organization of rank-and-rile union members working for the democratic reform of the SEIU and opposed to consolidation of power in the hands of international union leaders, forced mergers of locals and agreements made with employers without membership involvement. For more detailed information, see: SEIU Member Activists for Reform Today.
One important reason St. John Fisher College opposes unionization of contingent faculty by the SEIU is that, while we strongly believe in direct faculty involvement, leadership of the SEIU seems to hold a very different view.