Nov. 2: Basic Facts About Labor Unions

Many colleagues have reached out to ask basic questions about labor unions, the petition process, and how that process interacts with their daily work. A full series of questions and answers remain available on our Frequently Asked Questions page and a few are summarized here.

What is a labor union?

A union is an organization that represents a group of employees (a bargaining unit). A union negotiates a contract (a collective bargaining agreement) with an employer to establish the conditions of employment, including such things as wages, hours of work, benefits, and working conditions for the employees in the bargaining unit.

What is the Maine Service Employees Association SEIU?

It is the union that is trying to organize Bates employees and filed the Petition for Representation with the National Labor Relations Board. This union mostly represents public sector employees, like state employees, municipal employees in some cities, and community college faculty. In the private sector – where we are – they only represent employees at a few organizations.

I understand that union organizers are going to employees’ homes to solicit them. How did union organizers get employee names and addresses?

We don’t know. They did not get your information from the college. We treat all employee information with the utmost privacy and would not release it unless required by law. However, in the processing of the union’s current petition before the NLRB, Bates will be required by law to report employees’ addresses and phone numbers to the union.

Do I have to speak with union organizers?

No. You are free to speak with or decline to speak with union representatives or anyone else who visits or calls you at home. At work, you have both the right to talk to anyone and the right to tell anyone who is trying to solicit you to go away. But, as with any discussion in the workplace, it cannot disrupt the work at hand.

Are employees allowed to meet individually with their supervisors or ask them questions about unions and an election?

Yes. You should feel free to discuss any aspect of the union campaign with your supervisors
and ask any questions that you may have. This will help you make an informed decision in the upcoming election. Employees may also reach out to Human Resources with questions. We will also continue to provide information through written communications and information sessions.

If I signed a union card, do I have to vote for the union?

No. Authorization cards were only needed to petition for an election. That phase is complete. The election will be a secret ballot, and you can vote however you wish.

Am I allowed to solicit for or against the union during the work day?

Yes. The college’s policy on Solicitation and Distribution applies in this setting. (See Section 120 in the Employee Handbook.) Employees may solicit for or against the union anywhere on campus provided it is on non-working time (such as meal or other breaks or before or after work) for all participants, and provided it does not disrupt the work of others or the operations of the college. While solicitation is restricted per the policy, there are no restrictions on general conversations about the union during working time provided work itself is not interrupted. Distribution of written materials is not permitted in work areas at any time.