A petition is being circulated among Ithaca College full-time faculty asking the administration to edit the union election informational website it created to be more in line with the statement that the college is “neither anti-union nor pro-union,” which the college claims on the same website. As of 8 p.m. Thursday the petition was signed by 105 people.
On April 22, the National Labor Relations Board finalized the date for the college’s part-time faculty unionization election, which will start on May 11 and end on May 27, with the results being released May 28. The date was finalized one week after part-time faculty filed a petition to unionize with the NLRB and met with President Tom Rochon; Linda Petrosino, interim provost and vice president for educational affairs; and Nancy Pringle, vice president and counsel for the division of human and legal resources. In response to the election information, the administration published a Union Choice website containing links to information about union elections, the Service Employees International Union and part-time faculty compensation.
After the meeting on April 15, Rachel Kaufman, a lecturer in the department of Writing and a member of the Ithaca College Adjunct Organizing Committee, said she expected the administration to remain neutral. However, in a commentary in this week’s issue of The Ithacan, Rochon said at the same meeting he had told the organizers that he would not stay neutral as he believed the administration had the right to express its views on the issue. In the commentary, Rochon writes that the administration believes both the college and part-time faculty would be served better by maintaining a direct working relationship. Petrosino confirmed Rochon said he did not intend on staying neutral at the meeting.
The petition states an objection to the Frequently Asked Questions section of the website, which the petition claims uses “loaded terms, words intended to incite, and [is] answered with opinions stated as facts.” In particular, it pointed out three areas of interest in the FAQ section: the statements “Adjunct Action is a new marketing campaign for SEIU,” “Unions want to recruit new members because they need the dues” and the question “Why is SEIU targeting part-time faculty members?”
On April 27, the college removed links to the external Union Facts website, unionfacts.com, run by the Center for Union Facts, from the college’s union choice website in response to complaints that it contained content that was strongly anti-union. The petition acknowledges this removal, but states a continued concern with the FAQs and lack of links to any SEIU websites.
Leann Kanda, associate professor of biology, and Rebecca Plante, associate professor of sociology, sent the petition to full-time faculty in an email the morning of April 28, and the petition link will close at 9 a.m. May 1. Kanda said discussions began April 24 about a statement from full-time faculty who are concerned about the college’s website materials.
“I, and a number of other full-time faculty, found the informational website set up by the administration for the part-time faculty union election disconcerting, especially as the implication of the site was that this was the resource for the part-time faculty to make an informed decision,” she said.
Plante said the petition is the merging of many conversations faculty have had and is not influenced by the efforts of the Service Employees International Union.
In an email statement representing the college administration, Petrosino said it has not received criticisms of the accuracy of the information, but the tone and word choice. She said, however, the college has been clear that its position is not entirely neutral.
“From our perspective as an employer, we hope most will decide to vote against third-party representation,” she said. “Everyone has their own perspective, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but facts are facts, and in the end the only opinions that matter are the opinions of the voters.”
Since removing the Union Facts link, Kanda said, the administration has made other changes, like adding an SEIU Fact Sheet with information about the financial aspects of unions. But she said adding this is akin to providing the college’s budget to prospective students to help them decide whether to attend the college.
“The core concerns that prompted our attention in the first place remain, and we are proceeding with circulating the petition among full-time faculty members to present to the administration at the end of the week,” she said.
For Luke Keller, chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, the purpose of the petition is, at the very least, to communicate faculty concerns to the administration.
“It affects people in real ways, people who don’t have a lot of power in the system, so it matters a lot for it to be as neutral as possible,” he said.