The National Labor Relations Board conducted an election on March 2 to determine if a majority of staff at Suffolk University wanted the right to collective bargaining with management.
Suffolk employees have worked for months to build majority support for forming a union to, “Give us a voice and a contract to create stability and predictability,” said Michelle Archer da Silva, a staff assistant in the Law School.
After the workers petitioned the NLRB for an election, management began using the infamous Chicago union-busting law firm Seyfarth Shaw (their average hourly pay rate is over $610 an hour!).
With Seyfarth’s help, management cut the originally proposed bargaining unit in half, excluding many of the union’s strongest supporters. Then management used anti-union tactics like holding intimidating “one-on-one” meetings with workers, disparaging Local 888, and suggesting that by forming a union, workers could actually end up worse off.
When workers went to vote, management challenged the eligibility of 49 workers, many of whom were members of the organizing committee! Four workers were challenged by NLRB and three by Local 888.
The vote for SEIU Local 888 was 71 to 80 for no union. However, because the 56 uncounted ballots could determine the outcome of the election, the challenges must be resolved before workers will know the final result.
“I’m confident that a majority of the uncounted ballots were cast by folks who support forming a union at Suffolk,” said Liz McGovern, an office coordinator for the Strategy and International Business program. “The challenged ballots included members of the organizing committee and many staff members openly supportive of the union.”
While Suffolk is a private university, it survives because of the enormous support it receives from tax subsidies, government financing for tuition and other public support.
If Suffolk management continues with its expensive obstruction, the results of the election could take months to sort out.
However, regardless of the result, workers at Suffolk are determined to move forward. They are designing a survey that will allow everyone an opportunity to provide input on their bargaining priorities once all the votes are counted and their union is certified.