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Faculty Unionization FAQs

Vote by June 17, 2022

The voting period is now open. Make sure you follow all directions on your ballot and return it by mail in time to arrive at the NLRB office no later than 5:00 pm Pacific Time on June 17, 2022.

We have received many questions about what unionization would mean at Santa Clara University. We are committed to making sure all faculty have clear answers about these important topics, as the outcome of the election will impact everyone.

Proposed SEIU Faculty Union at Santa Clara

What is the role of a union?

A union is an organization created, governed, and regulated by a series of mostly federal laws. When a union is certified, it becomes the sole and exclusive representative of all employees in the “collective bargaining unit” to bargain with management on issues such as wages, hours, benefits and many working conditions and employment terms. Once certified, the union is legally and exclusively empowered to negotiate future contracts with the employer on behalf of the group.

What is a collective bargaining unit?

A collective bargaining unit is a group of job positions with a sufficient “community of interest” for a union to represent them. If a union is elected to represent a bargaining unit, all current and future employees holding those positions would be included in that bargaining unit and must accept representation by the union, regardless of whether they want to be in the union or not.

Who will be in the bargaining unit?

If a union is voted in, it will represent most non-tenure-track faculty in the College of Arts & Sciences, Leavey School of Business, School of Engineering, and School of Education and Counseling Psychology. The School of Law and Jesuit School of Theology are not included in the bargaining unit (see below).

The University agreed to the proposed bargaining until put forth by the SEIU. As such, the following employees are permitted to vote:

All full-time and regular part-time Lecturers, Senior Lecturers, Quarterly Adjunct Lecturers, Dean's Executive Professors, Professors of Practice, Adjunct Professors, and Academic Year Adjunct Lecturers employed by Santa Clara University at any time during the period from Summer 2021 through Spring 2022.

Can faculty opt-out of being in the union?

If a union is voted in, it will represent all current and future non-tenure-track faculty in the bargaining unit regardless of whether individuals voted to join the union or not. Once a union is voted in, it will be very difficult to decertify if employees wish to no longer have a union. 

Are there any carve-outs for either individuals or schools?

The following have been excluded from the bargaining unit and cannot vote:

All tenured faculty, members of a religious community and ordained clergy, Program Directors, Department Chairs, Promotion to Senior Lecturer Committees, tenure-track faculty, non-tenure track faculty in the School of Law, non-tenure-track faculty in the Jesuit School of Theology, faculty in Appointments-in Residence appointed under section, Visiting Faculty appointed under section, Postdoctoral Fellows appointed under section, trustees, officers, administrators, managers, confidential employees, office clerical employees, security guards, and supervisors as defined by the National Labor Relations Act. 

What about people who volunteer their time?

If the work is covered under the collective bargaining agreement, it must be done by a union employee paid according to union scale.

What are typical union member dues?

Typically union dues range between 1.5 and 2.0% of pay. From time to time, special assessments may be imposed as well. If a union is voted in, every non-tenure-track faculty member must pay dues, be included in collective bargaining, and follow the rules and procedures set by their union and the union contract, regardless of whether they voted for a union or not. The SEIU/organizing committee has not provided any information as part of this process as to what the union dues structure would be.

What is the SEIU?

SEIU Local 1021 represents nearly 60,000 employees in local governments, non-profit agencies, health care programs and schools throughout Northern California. At Santa Clara University, the SEIU represents our maintenance and grounds employees. At the national level, the SEIU has been undertaking to organize faculty and graduate students at colleges and universities for a little over five years.


University’s Position

What is the University’s position?

We believe our collaborative governance model continues to be the best approach towards building a world-class university where all our faculty can build meaningful careers and share in our Jesuit mission. By faculty of all positions and the University working together we have made meaningful, lasting progress toward this shared goal. The introduction of a third party will fundamentally alter how we work together.

Isn’t the University’s position anti-Catholic?

Our position is wholly consistent with Catholic social teaching, which acknowledges unionization as one form of association – but not the only form. There are functioning associations on campus representing non-tenure-track faculty such as the Faculty Affairs Committee and its Subcommittee on Lecturers and Adjuncts, the Faculty Senate Committee on Lecturers and Adjuncts, the Faculty Senate itself, and the Provost’s Advisory Council on Adjunct Faculty and Lecturers (PAFLC). We deeply respect the rights and dignity of all workers and their right to association. But that does not mean we need to agree on the form of association.

Why is the University allowing an election?

The University’s position since June 21, 2018 has been that if a sufficient number of employees in an appropriate bargaining unit demonstrate a desire for a vote, the framework of any election proceedings would need to follow the National Labor Relations Act. Until now, the organizing committee and the SEIU did not want to pursue that path. In July 2020, former President O’Brien authorized the Provost to explore a mutually amenable election process since the National Labor Relations Board stated it had no jurisdiction over religiously affiliated universities. Despite good faith efforts on both sides, several months of negotiations and two-day mediation did not yield a mutually amenable agreement.

On April 22, 2022, the union reversed course and filed a petition with the NLRB to oversee the election. While the Bethany decision still stands, the University is not contesting the NLRB’s jurisdiction to oversee the election and is complying with all procedures to facilitate the election. NLRB oversight of an election affords both parties established procedures and protections that are not available in a voluntary process.


Shared Governance

How will a union impact collaborative governance?

Represented employees will likely not be included in collaborative governance. Those in a bargaining unit represented by a union could be excluded from our collaborative governance system because only the union would have the exclusive right to bargain over their employment terms (which is done through collective bargaining). Portions of the Faculty Handbook may be modified through the collective bargaining agreement that SEIU negotiates with University administration, and this would occur outside of collaborative governance. Nothing in the Faculty Handbook concerning terms, conditions, benefits or privileges of employment for represented employees could be revised for represented members without union approval.