In light of the recent campaign to unionize specialized faculty and an ongoing effort by the Campus Faculty Association to form a union of tenure-system faculty members, campus human resources officials are receiving questions from faculty members about the unionization process and their rights under the Illinois labor law.
Elyne Cole, the associate provost for human resources, said there are two ways a union can demonstrate the level of support on campus necessary to form a union: a secret ballot election or a card check.
A ballot process would involve a robust campuswide public conversation, where the various perspectives on unionization could be heard, culminating in an election where votes would be cast.
A so-called "card check" drive, by comparison, does not involve public conversation or an election. When a card check process is used, union organizers approach potential members of a proposed bargaining unit and ask them to sign a card or some other document in support of forming a union. A card check process was used to form the recently recognized union for specialized faculty.
If the union collects signatures from employees (i.e., tenure system faculty members) in any percentage over 50, a union can be certified without taking a vote. The required number of signatures from faculty members (50 percent of faculty members plus one person) must be gathered by union organizers within a six-month period, though a time extension may be granted from the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.
Faculty members are reminded that signing a card is tantamount to voting "yes" for a union, even if the faculty member thought that signing the card was simply a request for information. In the recent specialized faculty unionization effort, the CFA collected the slightest majority of employees allowed, obtaining just one signature over 50 percent of the specialized faculty members in the proposed bargaining unit.
"We just want to make sure the process is clear and that people know what they're signing," Cole said.
Those who have signed and who wish to rescind their support may send a letter asking for such to the organizing entity, Cole said. Sending the letter by certified mail ensures the request is received by the IELRB, she said.
Non-employee organizers cannot harass prospective members, nor interfere with an employee's work or enter restricted areas on campus, Cole said. Employees have the right to decline signing a card.