More About Union Authorization Cards

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Several part-time faculty members have advised us that Service Employees International Union (“SEIU”), under the auspices of a project the union has labeled “Adjunct Action,” have sent them emails asking them to sign a union authorization card. Therefore we have developed this FAQ to provide you with information regarding union authorization cards.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Is there an organizing effort at Northeastern?

Answer: SEIU apparently is soliciting part-time faculty members to sign union authorization cards. 

Question: What is a union authorization card?

Answer: A union authorization card is a document that indicates an individual’s support for union representation by a particular union. The card that SEIU is asking faculty to sign states “I understand that this card will be filed with the National Labor Relations Board to establish the necessary interest to hold a union election.”

Question: What does the union do with signed authorization cards?

Answer: If the union can get 30% of the people in the unit it seeks to represent to sign cards, then it can file a petition for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).  The NLRB is the federal government agency responsible for conducting union elections in the private sector.

Question: What should I do if I don’t support the SEIU in its efforts to solicit Northeastern faculty?

Answer: You should not sign a union authorization card.

Question: Has the union filed a petition with the NLRB for an election among Northeastern part-time faculty?

Answer: No.

Question: Does the union get to choose the unit of people it wants to represent?

Answer: To some degree.  If an election is held, the law requires that those eligible to vote constitute “an appropriate unit.”  Generally, an “appropriate unit” consists of those employees in a single location of an employer who share similar terms and conditions of employment such as functional integration in the performance of their jobs, common supervision, similar skills and functions, interchangeability and contact among employees, and similar fringe benefits. A union chooses the appropriate unit it seeks to represent. This choice is subject to challenge by the employer before any election is scheduled and a dispute about the appropriateness of the unit would be resolved by the National Labor Relations Board.

Question: If I signed a union authorization card, does that mean I have voted for the union?

Answer: No, but it is a legally binding document that the union can use to show that you support it for purposes of seeking an election to represent faculty at Northeastern, or to demand that Northeastern voluntarily recognize the union as your representative without holding an election.

Question: What if I sign an authorization card and later decide that I do not want the union to represent me?

Answer: If you sign a card, but later decide you do not want the union to represent you, then you still can vote "no" if there is an election. Any election held on the question of union representation will be a secret ballot election, so no one will know how you voted. A "no" vote indicates that you do not want to be represented by the union. You also can send the union a letter telling them you don’t support union representation and revoking your authorization. However, your revocation letter would probably be symbolic at best because there are cases where the NLRB has found employee attempts to revoke the card ineffective and counted their cards towards the union’s showing of support for a representation election despite the employee’s efforts to revoke. This is why it is important that you carefully consider all of the relevant information before making any decision to sign an authorization card.