February 2, 2016
I am writing to report to you the results of the recent vote on unionization and explain what happens next, and why.
In the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, the vote was 113 yes and 127 no, thus rejecting representation by SEIU Local 721. (There were also 13 challenged ballots and 4 void ballots.)
In the Roski School of Art and Design, the vote was 31 yes and 6 no, in favor of union representation.
In the USC International Academy, the vote was 32 yes and 3 no, in favor of union representation.
I do not take lightly the fact that the Dornsife vote was close and that a substantial number of faculty expressed their dissatisfaction by their votes. The decision of the Dornsife faculty to reject unionization leaves us free to continue to work collaboratively within the university community on the issues that are important to faculty, building on what we already have achieved.
I will seek to merit the trust you have placed in me. I look forward to continuing to work directly with Dornsife faculty, with the Academic Senate and the Dornsife Faculty Council, and with the Dean’s office to create an environment where our faculty members thrive.
The vote in Roski is personally disappointing to me, though I hear the message you have sent. However, many steps remain before the matter is settled. While the NLRB local regional office ruled that USC’s teaching-track faculty are workers subject to unionization, a different NLRB regional office decided only two weeks ago that faculty at another institution are managers who cannot be unionized, even though those faculty have a much smaller role in shared governance than USC’s faculty have. Teaching-track faculty of Roski are full participants in faculty governance; representing the school in the Academic Senate, chairing and holding two-thirds of the seats on the Faculty Council, and serving on key university-level committees. We will defend the principle that our teaching-track faculty are partners with tenured faculty in USC’s faculty governance. We therefore will seek a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board itself in Washington and, if necessary thereafter, seek a definitive decision in a federal court of appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court decided in the leading case of NLRB v. Yeshiva University that the NLRB was wrong to treat Yeshiva’s faculty as workers subject to unionization rather than as managers of the university because, “It is clear that Yeshiva and like universities must rely on their faculties to participate in the making and implementation of their policies.”
Until the case is finally decided, the Roski teaching-track faculty continue to have the full right to participate in faculty governance, and can make use of the Academic Senate, Faculty Council, and university committees to work on issues that concern them.
The situation in the USC International Academy is different. The university agreed that the lecturers in the International Academy are the kind of employees intended to be covered by the National Labor Relations Act because they do not participate in making and implementing university policies — they have no representative in the Academic Senate, no Faculty Council, and no members on university-level committees. (The Academy is outside any school: its lecturers do not teach courses for USC credit, and its students are not admitted to USC.) Therefore, in the International Academy, the university will begin bargaining in good faith with the union in an effort to reach mutual agreement on a contract. Until a contract is agreed by both sides, current processes and policies will continue in force.
I have learned a lot since I became Provost about the issues that concern some of our faculty. I believe more than ever that our faculty are the bedrock of the university’s success. As always, I welcome your thoughts at email@example.com.
Michael W. Quick