Emerson's academic staff files petition to unionize

by Nathanael King / Beacon Staff • March 17, 2016

Members of Emerson’s academic staff filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board this Tuesday for a union election. Organizers are working to form a chapter of Service Employees International Union Local 888.

John-Albert Moseley, program coordinator in the visual and media arts department and organizer behind the effort, declined to say specifically how many staff members signed authorization cards, which indicate a desire to unionize.

“We have a strong majority who have signed authorization cards,” Moseley said.

At least 30 percent of academic staff members must have signed authorization cards for an election to be approved under NLRB regulations.

Moseley, a member of Our Emerson, said the organization and the college administration have not yet agreed on whom is included in the bargaining unit, the group of employees represented by a union.

Moseley said he defined the bargaining unit as all academic staff without the power to hire or fire other staff. The NLRB requires that more than 50 percent of participating voters in the election favor unionization to form the chapter.

Moseley said Our Emerson hoped to hold the election in mid-April, and that they had a meeting with President M. Lee Pelton scheduled for April 1. He said they wanted to hold it before the end of the semester

In the event that the election is successful, Our Emerson’s goals for contract negotiations include increased salary, clarity, and job security, according to Moseley.

Shaylin Hogan, senior administrative associate in the writing, literature, and publishing department and a member of Our Emerson, said the union organizers were open to the ideas of staff members not involved in the union effort who may have different goals for contract negotiations.

“We want to make sure that we’re representing everyone’s interests,” she said.

The college wrote in an email statement to the Beacon, “Since August 2015, the College has been aware of SEIU Local 888’s interest, and created a website that strives to answer questions employees may have about a union organizing process and collective bargaining. Emerson supports and encourages the right for each individual to make an informed, confidential choice whether to organize.”

Moseley said he hoped that proceedings with the college were respectful and neutral. He said some of the material about the union effort on Emerson’s human resources website was not neutral, and he wanted it taken down.

“Our goal isn’t to be ‘us versus them,’” Hogan said. “We really want to work together with the administration so that we can strengthen Emerson.