Emerson staff vote to unionize

by Nathanael King / Beacon Staff • April 14, 2016

Emerson’s clerical, technical, and professional staff in academic affairs voted last Thursday to form a union with Service Employees International Union Local 888.

The vote was 59-7 in favor of unionization, according to John-Albert Moseley, a member of Our Emerson’s organizing committee, the group of staff behind the effort.

Moseley, program coordinator in the department of visual and media arts, said the vote count was held by representatives from the National Labor Relations Board, although members of both the college’s administration and Our Emerson attended. 

About 80 staff members were eligible to vote, according to Moseley. 

Moseley said the pro-union organizing group will send out a formal survey to staff members in the bargaining committee to gauge their wishes and desires prior to contract negotiations. He said they wanted to represent the interests of all departments and demographics in the contract.

James Delaney, budget and operations manager in the visual and media arts department and an Our Emerson organizer, said they still wanted to hear from those who voted against unionization.

“It needs to be their union too,” Delaney said. “They’re as important as anyone else.”

Delaney said there was no date set for contract negotiations yet.

Moseley said they planned to hold union elections for other staff members, like those in Information Technology. The committee hopes that all will unite in the same chapter, but Moseley said they would collaborate on contract negotiations even if they worked in separate bargaining units.

“We should be at the same table as one union, with one employer, making one impact, creating one great employer, one great institution,” Moseley said. “I think that’s really what our goal is.”

Paige Niler, a junior marketing communication major and member of Emerson P.R.I.D.E., Progressives and Radicals in Defense of Employees, said the student-worker solidarity group wrote letters to the administration in support of Our Emerson. 

Niler said there were two P.R.I.D.E.-only meetings with President M. Lee Pelton on this topic, and representatives from the organization accompanied Our Emerson when organizing committee members on an April 1 meeting with Pelton. 

“We’ve been a presence on campus [and we wanted] to remind President Pelton that we are here and we are supporting the workers,” Niler said. 

The college wrote in an email statement to the Beacon that it had positive relationships with its existing unions.

“Emerson College looks forward to entering into a collective bargaining process with the newly elected Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 888,” the statement read.