Boston staff receives support from other campus unions

by Nathanael King / Beacon Staff • January 28, 2016

Our Emerson, a group seeking to organize the college’s staff through Service Employees International Union Local 888, received letters of support from several other similar groups, including the unions of the full-time and adjunct faculty, the campus police, and Sodexo food service.

The Our Emerson organizing committee published these letters of support both on their website and in a pamphlet released just before winter break. It also included voices from group members and information about the unionization process and their goals.

The college emailed staff in August last year to notify them of the union effort, and claimed that representatives had contacted staff through mail and home visits.

They are hosting a “meet and greet” event today to connect with staff members and members of other on-campus unions.

“Emerson supports and encourages the right for each individual to make an informed, confidential choice whether to organize,” the college wrote in a statement to the Beacon.

John-Albert Moseley, an Our Emerson committee member and program coordinator for the department of visual and media arts, said in an interview that the organizers were currently focused on reaching as many staff as they could and furthering their authorization card drive. He said that they hoped to file for an official election through the National Labor Relations Board by the end of the spring semester.

Colleen Fitzpatrick, an SEIU Local 888 organizer, wrote in an email that there were about 250 clerical, technical, and professional staff who would make up the bargaining unit.

Under NLRB regulations, 30 percent of the bargaining unit must sign authorization cards indicating a desire to have SEIU Local 888 represent them in order to hold an election. If the majority of participating voters in the election favor unionization, the chapter will be formed.

Moseley said that two of the committee members’ goals for a future contract were better job security and increased clarity on benefits for sick leave and maternity and paternity leave.

“[Another goal is] making sure we have a livable wage—that staff who work at Emerson can afford to live in the same community that they work in,” Moseley said.

Our Emerson will not be an official chapter of SEIU Local 888 until a successful election is held. Moseley said that they chose the union to represent them in part due to the its success with adjuncts at Boston University and Northeastern University, and because the staff organizers felt that it was best situated to their needs.

According to Moseley, the committee members meet with organizers from SEIU Local 888 on a weekly basis. He said that they had about 20 active committee members.

“Staff are such an important part of Emerson,” Claire Andrade-Watkins, a professor and president of the college’s chapter of American Association of University Professors—the union representing the college’s full-time faculty—said in a phone interview, “and what improves their working conditions is better for everybody.”