Right to work states guarantee that no individual can be forced as a condition of employment to join or pay dues or fees to a labor union. California is not a right to work state, and unions often negotiate compulsory membership as part of any collective bargaining agreement.
If the CFT, AFL-CIO prevails in this election, all ArtCenter faculty who are in the voting unit will be subject to union representation and any resulting collective bargaining agreement. Faculty in the voting unit would not have the ability to opt out or decline union representation.
During a campaign, unions have significant leeway to “promise” better pay and benefits, job security, greater influence in decision-making and changes to workplace policies and practices. However, unions cannot guarantee they can follow through on those promises. If the union were to prevail in the election, these topics would become part of a good faith negotiation between ArtCenter and the union, but there is no guarantee that the parties will reach agreement on any topics that are negotiated.
All things related to workplace policies and practices, working conditions and compensation and benefits would be subject to negotiation under a collective bargaining agreement. For ArtCenter faculty, this could affect our employment agreements and contract types, teaching loads, how classes get assigned, non-instructional activities, interdisciplinary and team teaching, and significantly, our ability to be nimble and flexible in meeting the differing and unique needs of our faculty and students.
A collective bargaining agreement can take years to negotiate. For example, California College of the Arts (CCA) started negotiations with the SEIU, the union representing CCA staff, in October 2019, and an agreement was not reached until April 2022. A separate existing contract between CCA and its adjunct faculty expired in 2020 and was not renewed until April 2022.
The National Labor Relations Board will determine the outcome of the election based on a simple majority of votes cast. While there are approximately 700 faculty who are eligible to vote, if only 100 faculty members cast ballots, their votes will determine the outcome, for everyone in the voting unit. Importantly, regardless of whether you vote, you will be bound by the election outcome. If the union prevails, faculty will not have the ability to opt out or decline union representation.
You might be thinking, “What is there to lose if I vote for the union? If we don’t see the results we expect, we can just vote them out.” In reality, it is difficult to remove a union.
If CFT, AFL-CIO is voted in, they are protected from any effort by faculty to vote them out (decertify) for one year. And if the union prevails in the election and a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is subsequently negotiated and executed, faculty cannot ask for a decertification election during the initial term of the CBA, except during a 30-day "window period" that is 60 to 90 days before the end of the contract.
One year after the election, if there is no CBA in place, faculty would be able to seek decertification by collecting signed authorization cards from at least 30% of the represented group and submit those to the National Labor Relations Board. ArtCenter would not be able to legally assist faculty in collecting signatures, filing a petition or helping with the campaign in any way. If sufficient cards were gathered by faculty wishing to decertify the union, the NLRB would then authorize an election to be held via mail ballot. The outcome of the election would be determined by the majority of votes cast. This process is very time consuming and rarely results in an election that successfully decertifies the union.
At ArtCenter, we believe that being flexible to the individual needs of our professional faculty of artists and designers—and for all our teachers, no matter what their outside schedule or commitments might be—best serves them, our students, and our institution. Working professionals and busy adults have needs that can arise at any moment that we strive to accommodate with the greatest flexibility possible.
If CFT, AFL-CIO were to prevail in the election, faculty would lose the ability to communicate directly with ArtCenter about their working conditions and many of their needs, including compensation and benefits, workplace policies and practices. The union would be their exclusive bargaining agent and, under federal labor laws, it would be illegal for ArtCenter to bargain with individual faculty or with groups of faculty.
Under a CFT/AFL-CIO contract, faculty may find themselves subject to “one size fits all” rules and restrictions. With many varied interests involved in the negotiation process, it would be very difficult for the union to take every faculty member’s unique needs and preferences into consideration—while today, this is often something you can work out with your department chair. What may be important to you may not be as important to the negotiating committee or consistent with CFT, AFL-CIO’s broader agenda. How well does CFT, AFL-CIO know your job and what is best for you?
Educators and classified professionals represented by CFT, AFL-CIO pay as much as $569 in annual dues to the union. These are post-tax dollars taken out of employees' net pay. It’s also important to consider the administrative costs that ArtCenter would incur to execute a contract and ensure ongoing compliance with its terms. A tuition increase to cover these additional costs may need to be considered.
ArtCenter is fully committed to fostering a diverse, equitable and inclusive campus community, not only in vision but in practice, and in 2020 engaged College stakeholders and community members to develop a comprehensive plan to address disparities within our system, strengthen the rich diversity of our community and improve the climate in which we work and learn. We are concerned, however, that rather than promote equity and inclusivity, unionization could have the opposite effect, and limit our ability to be innovative and creative in how we strengthen our culture of DEI.
The initiatives and commitments in our Action Plan were developed based on our existing shared governance model, not one where we must work through a union and negotiate key aspects of how we work via a collective bargaining agreement. Because CBAs generally take a one-size-fits-all approach to things like hiring, scheduling and workplace policies, we could lose our ability to be agile and responsive to the needs of specific communities within our College. For example, if a CBA were in place today, we might not have the flexibility to move forward with our diversity cluster hire or to mandate compliance with DEI employee learning requirements or ensure that DEI practices are incorporated into the faculty review process – all major commitments within our DEI Action Plan.