This page includes a record of the university’s communications to the campus community regarding the question of establishing a faculty union at Elon.
March 19, 2019 - Message from Provost Steven House about Elon's filing of objections to the union election
Today the university filed formal objections with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to shed light on the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) tactics to unionize Elon’s part-time teaching faculty, full-time teaching faculty with limited term appointments and full-time visiting faculty members.
Since the SEIU filed its petition last November, federal labor laws have limited our ability to share these details. With the election’s “critical period” now over, Elon is finally able to describe the SEIU conduct that is antithetical to our principles and outside the NLRB rules for elections. Despite what you have heard from the SEIU, there should be no doubt: Our community values the contributions of all faculty and staff and we constantly strive to make things better.
Elon is informing the NLRB about SEIU organizers posing as students to gain access to faculty conversations, threatening the integrity of the election by promising ballots only to those who favored the union, coercing faculty members into supporting the SEIU with false information, and undermining the university’s representative and transparent shared governance system.
The SEIU has employed similar tactics at many other colleges and universities and will surely attempt to characterize these objections as a reaction to losing the election. But their actions have violated our values of honesty and transparency and it is our duty to share information that many members of our community may not be aware of.
The SEIU plan to force and win a union vote
As was reported in media accounts, SEIU organizers quietly arrived at Elon as early as January 2018 with a plan to influence faculty to sign union authorization cards. Some faculty, including elected and representative members of Academic Council and department chairs who hire adjuncts, were recruited to speak out in support of the SEIU.
Over many months, we received complaints that SEIU recruiters sought out specific faculty and approached many of them without advance notice, catching them by surprise in hallways, during their office hours and even appearing at their homes on weekends. Some faculty members reported feeling stalked and unsafe when organizers appeared repeatedly and sometimes refused to leave. Some faculty members were upset that their Elon colleagues had shared their home addresses and personal contact information with the SEIU without their permission.
In December, a faculty member shared an example of such an experience in an email to the campus community. A young woman posing as a student asked to meet with him to discuss her classes. When he agreed, she began questioning him about his contract, work conditions and compensation. When he asked if she was working for a union, she refused to answer.
Another faculty member wrote to her department colleagues that she had been approached at least six times and said the SEIU representative used “bullying tactics” to push her to sign the SEIU petition. After she clearly expressed that she would not support the union, the SEIU recruiter and one of her faculty colleagues showed up at her office to push her to change her mind.
The SEIU “Faculty Forward” campaign, part of a larger plan to “#OrganizetheSouth,” created an email list of some Elon faculty and staff and sent a series of 13 messages titled “Eyes on Elon,” attacking university leaders. Many of these messages included links to pro-union opinion columns published by Elon student media. One of the columns claimed that adjunct faculty were working in “deplorable conditions.” This is at odds with what we know to be true. Elon pays adjuncts 35 percent more than the national average while still working to maintain its affordable cost and increasing financial aid. Elon provides adjuncts with annual pay increases equal to the amount for full-time employees and provides access to many of the employee benefits enjoyed by full-time faculty members, including holiday bonuses, health insurance for those who teach 18 or more credit hours per year, and the professional development resources of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning.
An attempt to undermine the NLRB election process
It was brought to our attention that on February 11 two adjunct faculty members working on behalf of the SEIU contacted their colleagues about the voting process, writing, “Can we count on you to vote yes for our union? If so, fill out this form and we’ll make sure your ballot gets to you.” In fact, neither party in an NLRB election has influence over who does or does not receive a ballot and the NLRB does not distinguish between who is and who is not supportive of the union in transmitting ballots. This email implied that the NLRB process was biased toward the union or that Elon University would, in some way, impede pro-SEIU faculty from getting to vote, a message that undermines the validity of the election.
The SEIU campaign was geared toward influencing voters who have the least awareness of the university’s support for faculty. Of the 283 eligible voters, 95 were faculty who have taught only one of the past four semesters (34%), 158 have taught in two semesters (56%) and 38 have not taught at Elon this academic year (13%).
The SEIU attack on Elon’s shared governance system
SEIU’s campaign was designed to circumvent the university’s shared governance system that actively engages teaching faculty and administrators and staff with faculty rank on matters related to the curriculum, management and operation of the institution.
In fact, since 2004 adjunct faculty have had an elected representative on Academic Council to represent their interests. That elected member receives additional pay to serve in that role for the explicit purpose of raising adjunct concerns. The failure to formally raise concerns through our established protocols has undermined the effectiveness of Elon’s shared governance system.
We believe shared governance is worth fighting for. Under an SEIU contract, adjuncts and limited term faculty would be bound by the collective bargaining process. An SEIU-negotiated contract would separate adjunct and limited term faculty members from their colleagues in their relationships with the university.
The road ahead
The SEIU claims that Elon is seeking to “prevent adjunct faculty from having a meaningful voice in improving their working conditions.” In fact, the opposite is true. Prior to the vote, we expressed our preference to work directly with adjunct faculty to quickly take action on concerns, avoiding a lengthy and contentious collective bargaining process dominated by the outside lawyers and SEIU representatives who will be at the bargaining table. In objecting to this election, we want to ensure that adjunct and limited term faculty make the important decision about unionization in an environment free from improper SEIU conduct.
I expect that speaking out against the SEIU’s tactics will result in further attacks on the university and administrators. But we must stand up for the unique Elon culture and community that distinguishes our university. While Elon is not perfect, people here know how to disagree respectfully and find solutions, working together to improve conditions for everyone.
Provost and Executive Vice President
March 12, 2019 - Message from Provost Steven House about the election vote tally
Today agents of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) counted ballots cast in the election regarding a faculty union for adjunct, limited term and visiting faculty members at Elon. Of the 283 eligible voters, 200 ballots were received. The count was 112 in favor of unionization and 68 against. A total of 20 ballots were challenged by the parties in the election, but that number is not enough to change the outcome of the vote tally.
NLRB procedures following the vote tally allow seven days for the university to file objections to the election before the final count is certified. After the votes are certified, there is a 14-day period during which the university can formally ask the NLRB to review the election process. We are gathering further information about the results and process of the election and will soon make a decision on our next steps.
While we consider our options, I want to thank all faculty members for their participation in this process. Our community has learned a great deal and given deeper consideration to the role of all faculty members at the university. I look forward to our future work together.
Provost and Executive Vice President
Feb. 15, 2019 - Letter to eligible voters from President Connie Ledoux Book
In my heart, I am an educator and I believe in education as the gateway for human transformation. I value the diversity of disciplines and experiences that promote powerful learning outcomes on our campus. An essential element of our community is respect for the roles each of us serves in creating a dynamic Elon education.
So I was disheartened to hear that some part-time and limited-term faculty members at Elon—friends and colleagues who are dedicated to our shared work of student transformation—do not feel respected and valued and believe a union is the best path forward.
I have met with and listened to many faculty members over the past two months, heard their concerns and learned a great deal. As a new president who just completed my first full semester, I hope you will first provide me the opportunity to show you what we can achieve together. Ours is a community that knows how to listen carefully, act creatively and solve problems in a uniquely Elon way, meeting the diverse needs of individuals, departments and disciplines. The Service Employees International Union and the collective bargaining process offer the opposite – replacing flexibility with a rigid one-size-fits-all approach that has fueled an adversarial culture pervasive where the union is present.
Elon can and should do more to support adjunct and limited-term faculty, and we can do so without invoking a system that involves outside lawyers and union negotiators. I am confident the best way to achieve our common goals is to work directly in partnership together.
Who is the SEIU?
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is sending you a ballot, asking whether you want the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Workers United Southern Region to negotiate your terms of employment with Elon. I recommend you research the SEIU to fully understand who it represents and the tactics it employs.
Organizers have branded this effort as “Faculty Forward,” but less than 3 percent of the SEIU’s members are faculty and graduate students. In fact, the union’s Southern Region website makes no mention of higher education in listing its members’ occupations in manufacturing, clothing and accessories, food service, trucking and distribution and other industries.
A large portion of the SEIU members’ dues goes toward funding the union’s national operations and political lobbying.
The SEIU brought this question to Elon using secretive and deceptive tactics. Some union organizers posed as students to convince faculty members to talk with them. Others followed faculty members in hallways and showed up unannounced at their homes and continue to do so.
By asking for a vote at the end of fall semester and over the holidays, the SEIU petition was timed to minimize campus discussion, rush to a quick decision, and reduce the number of voters. This tactic, often referred to in union organizing as an “ambush election,” is at odds with Elon’s commitment to honesty and transparency and demonstrates this union’s values and how it conducts business.
I do not believe this labor union should be representing faculty in an academic community with a strong mission, meaningful honor code and student-centered values. Yet, this is what you’re being asked: Should a professional union spokesperson, local SEIU staff members and lawyers take the lead in negotiating your employment terms and hold the authority to bind you to a contract?
Your vote is critical
In my career in higher education, I have always understood the essential role that each and every faculty and staff member plays in shaping our learning environment and the lives of young people. As you cast your vote, please understand that I value and have the utmost respect for the work you do with our students. I believe in our ability to work together, without the interference of a third party, to create positive change and develop an even stronger learning environment for all students and faculty.
For these reasons, I hope that you will vote “no” on this union ballot.
Connie Ledoux Book
Feb. 5, 2019 - Message from Provost Steven House regarding the National Labor Relations Board ruling
February 5, 2019
I am writing to update the community regarding a petition filed by the Service Employees International Union, Workers United Southern Region (the SEIU) to hold a vote among adjunct, limited-term and visiting faculty members on forming a labor union at Elon. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regional director has ordered that a vote will take place.
Faculty members included in this vote include the following:
All limited term, visiting, and adjunct faculty teaching at least one credit-bearing undergraduate course in Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences; the School of Communications; the School of Education; or the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business; who taught or were contracted to teach during the fall 2018 to spring 2019 academic year, or who taught at least one class in the spring 2018 or fall 2018 semesters.
Voting on the union question will take place by U.S. Mail, with ballots mailed on February 19 and returned by voters and received by the NLRB no later than March 12. Eligible voters should watch for detailed voting instructions in separate emails. Faculty members who believe that they are eligible to vote and do not receive a ballot in the mail by Tuesday, February 26, should communicate immediately with the National Labor Relations Board by either calling the Region 10 Office at (404) 331-2896 or a national toll-free line at 1-844-762-NLRB (1-844-762-6572).
Our goal is to ensure that every eligible faculty member casts a ballot. The election results will be based ONLY on the majority of the ballots that are cast – not a majority of the total number of eligible voters. We do not want this election to be decided by only a small number of voters.
Deans in each school are available to answer questions from faculty impacted by the vote. In response to listening sessions held with faculty in December and questions asked about the SEIU and the impact of a union at Elon, a special website has been developed. The website’s FAQ page is being continually updated as new questions are raised. Access the site at: www.elon.edu/union.
I want to reiterate that President Book, all of Elon’s academic deans and I oppose unionization at Elon. We believe, as do many other Elon faculty, that our new president and our system of transparent, shared governance should first have an opportunity to consider concerns raised by adjunct, limited-term and visiting faculty. When Elon works together to solve its challenges, the mission and values of the university provide a centerpiece from which all stakeholders work to advance the teaching and learning experience for the entire Elon community. The SEIU does not share Elon’s mission and values.
Provost and Executive Vice President
Dec. 14, 2018 — Update from Provost Steven House on National Labor Relations Board hearing
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has concluded four days of hearings on a petition by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to unionize certain classifications of faculty at Elon. The NLRB will allow Elon and the SEIU to file supporting briefs before ruling on whether a vote should be conducted and, if so, when and how it should be held.
Elon strongly objected to the union’s efforts to force a quick vote via U.S. Mail over the holidays. The timing of the petition and the demand for this voting method is designed to minimize both discussion and participation. The union’s apparent goal is to skew the voting results, which are based only on a majority of ballots cast, rather than a majority of eligible voters. Elon asked the NLRB to schedule an in-person voting period on campus in February (after the holidays and Winter Term), when the majority of eligible voters are here for spring semester and able to easily cast a ballot.
Elon also asserted that the SEIU’s proposal to combine, into one single bargaining unit, three different classifications of faculty (limited term, part-time and visiting faculty) from four different academic units (Elon College and the Schools of business, communications and education) inappropriately joins groups of faculty who have different terms of employment and who work in schools that have differing accreditation requirements that impact their faculty.
Elon also maintained that the bargaining unit proposed by the SEIU is inappropriate because of the important role faculty play in shaping the university’s academic programs through Elon’s shared governance system. Elon faculty in all classifications are eligible to participate in important committee and task force work, can attend faculty meetings and discuss issues and resolutions, are represented on Academic Council and can participate in decision-making in their departments and schools.
I will communicate with the campus community as soon as we receive the NLRB decision, which will establish the timeline for any election that is conducted.
Dec. 6, 2018 — Message from Gabie Smith, dean of Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences
Subject: “Why hasn’t Elon appointed a task force since the union’s filing of the petition?”
I’ve been asked this question over last few days when in conversations with colleagues. Answers to this question and others (e.g, federal laws restricting Elon’s actions in this compressed process, union membership, and how unionization would affect the entire campus) can now be found on the next round of FAQs at https://www.elon.edu/u/faculty/union/faq/.
The website and list of FAQs will be updated continually to answer questions being raised and as resources related to the process are available.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter facing our entire community.
Best wishes as we prepare for finals and the end of the semester,
Dec. 5, 2018 — Message from Senior Associate Provost Tim Peeples
Hello, all –
Apologies for interrupting an especially busy time of the term, but I want to make sure you are aware of, and have access to, a website that has been created to provide answers to questions some people are asking about the union election.
You can access this site here: www.elon.edu/u/faculty/union
One example of the information you can find here: a number of people are uncertain about who is included in the voting unit proposed by the union. The description of the voting unit as drafted by the SEIU in its representation petition is:
“All part-time and full-time non-tenure-track employees of Elon University teaching at least one credit-bearing undergraduate course in the College of Arts & Science, School of Communications, School of Education, or Martha & Spencer Love School of Business (including but not limited to continuing-track faculty, lecturer-track faculty, visiting faculty, limited-term faculty, adjunct faculty, instructors, and staff with non-tenure-track teaching assignments).”
Taking time to review information on the website will help us all become informed about this important issue facing Elon. This site can also help ensure that those eligible to vote are adequately prepared to do so.
All the best,
Senior Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs
Dec. 4, 2018 — Update from Provost Steven House
Members of the Elon community,
I am writing to provide updated information about an action by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which has filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) asking for a vote to establish a labor union representing non-tenure track faculty at Elon. This action, filed without advance notice at the end of the semester, requires immediate response by the university to federal labor officials.
The university is supplying extensive information required by NLRB and preparing for a hearing on Friday. Among the issues are questions related to the groups of faculty who would be included in a union vote. The SEIU seeks to include all undergraduate faculty in Elon College and the schools of business, communications and education who do not hold tenure or tenure-track positions. Faculty in Elon’s law and health sciences schools are excluded.
The definition of faculty groups will be confusing to many members of our community. We tend to relate to all faculty members in similar ways, making few distinctions among tenure track, continuing track, lecture track, visiting track, limited term and part-time appointments. The union effort to divide Elon faculty into separate groups is troubling and has serious implications for our system of shared governance.
As a person with many years of investment in Elon, I want to say clearly and without hesitation that I believe a union is not in the best interest of faculty, our students or the future of our university. As members of our community make judgments about a faculty union at Elon, I ask everyone to consider accurate information and become informed about our history of strong investment in faculty support.
While the union’s petition was clearly timed to limit community discussion and to move to a vote as early as next week, I want to do everything I can to support dialogue among faculty and provide the time needed for careful consideration of the long-term impact of a union.
Elon’s faculty model and shared governance
At the heart of Elon’s model of shared governance is the spirit of working together – transparently, routinely and collaboratively – to advance the educational environment for students and working conditions for all faculty. Through Academic Council and other elements of Elon’s shared governance model, we have a long history of being open to concerns, forming representative groups of colleagues to study issues and recommending solutions, and implementing recommendations to advance the teaching and learning environment.
Among the many accomplishments of shared governance has been the creation of a vibrant faculty model that values the role and contributions of everyone. We have dramatically increased the number of tenure-track and full-time faculty over the past two decades while leveraging the skills and contributions of limited term and part-time faculty who bring a wealth of experiences to our classrooms. These educators have enabled the growth of our sabbatical and course-release initiatives. For Fall 2018, 34 full-time limited term hires were approved, covering 9 percent of the semester hours taught, with another 16 percent of semester hours taught by part-time faculty.
- Counter to national trends, Elon has increased undergraduate tenure/tenure-track from 41 percent of the full-time permanent faculty in 1990-91 to 75 percent in fall 2018. During the same general period, AAUP (American Association of University Professors) reports that the national average percent of tenure/tenure-track faculty decreased from 71 percent of full-time permanent faculty to 63 percent.
- The Elon University Faculty Handbook was revised in the mid-2000s to state that the university seeks to appoint and maintain a full-time permanent teaching faculty that is up to 90 percent tenure/tenure-track. This aim, the direct result of an Academic Council-appointed committee, has driven the increase in full-time and tenure/tenure-track faculty within the university.
- The current composition of the undergraduate full-time faculty of 75 percent tenure/tenure-track and 25 percent permanent continuing track, lecture track, and visiting track faculty, is determined by faculty authority and latitude to create a full-time faculty that meets its instructional objectives. For example, the School of Communications faculty includes only 60 percent tenure/tenure-track because the school’s faculty seeks to hire many former working communications professionals to complement the perspectives of traditional faculty.
Elon has been a leader in involving faculty in governance of the university. We cannot predict how Academic Council might change with the establishment of a faculty union. The structure and policies related to shared governance and Academic Council could be impacted by the legal obligations associated with collective bargaining. The impact on all faculty, including those who might not be represented by a union, is unclear.
Balancing resources for all members of the Elon community
Elon is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s best-run universities, keeping a value position among top-ranked private institutions, increasing financial aid to expand student access, and at the same time rewarding faculty and staff who are essential to the university’s mission. While many other universities have cut budgets and programs, reduced positions and raised tuition, Elon has used wise fiscal management and enrollment growth to maintain a strong financial position and continue to grow instructional spending.
Faculty have benefited greatly from Elon’s strategies. Faculty in all positions, including our non-tenure and part-time faculty, have shared in annual salary increases and we have set and met goals to keep Elon faculty compensation in the top one-third of peer institutions and the top four private institutions in North Carolina.
More than $15 million has been invested in faculty development support and the scholarship task force recommendations. At the same time, the student-faculty ratio has improved from 18-to-1 in 2000 to 12-to-1 today. The number of faculty sabbaticals has risen from 2 in 1999 to 33 and the university, working with Academic Council has developed a robust reassigned time plan, including a new post-probationary faculty development opportunities. In order to support this faculty development, for every one-semester sabbatical awarded, that faculty member’s department is eligible to receive one full-year, full-time replacement (i.e., a limited-term faculty hire).
In addition to competitive salaries and workload for permanent faculty, Elon has paid attention to compensation for lecture track, limited term and part-time faculty. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Elon’s 2016-17 average salaries for lecturers of $66,456 ranked #1 among all North Carolina universities.
Elon’s base pay for part-time faculty ranges from $5,300-$5,700 per four-hour course, with pay for longevity and terminal degrees. Those adjunct faculty have received higher pay through the university’s annual salary pool increases.
In the same spirit of rewarding all Elon employees, the university has adopted an hourly wage scale that ensures that no staff member receives less than $15 per hour.
As important as salary, Elon faculty participate in a comprehensive and competitive benefits package, including health insurance and access to the health and wellness center, a generous 403(b) retirement match, tuition remission/exchange, and numerous other benefits. Many of the benefits are available without restriction to part-time faculty.
The compensation and benefits SEIU has bargained for at other institutions, often after lengthy and divisive collective bargaining, includes many of the same benefits Elon faculty already enjoy without a union.
Preserving our relationships
There are many more facts to consider regarding a faculty union at Elon. Thankfully, we are a community that embraces respectful dialogue and a collegial spirit in addressing difficult issues. We must preserve our strong relationships and not fall victim to the adversarial culture that has plagued so many other universities.
In the days and weeks ahead, I urge you to discuss these matters with your faculty colleagues, department chairs, deans and members of the administration. We all love Elon, have a great deal of respect for non-tenure faculty and the work they do, and want to preserve the qualities of this very special university.
I welcome conversations with all members of the Elon community. Let’s talk, and then make wise decisions that are in the best interest of everyone.
Steven House, Provost and Executive Vice President
Nov. 30, 2018 — Message from Provost Steven House
Elon has well-established and long-valued forums to address issues brought forth that impact faculty and staff. The university’s Academic Council is a model of shared governance that ensures non-tenure-track and adjunct faculty are represented as voting members. The council is an avenue for all faculty, including those who are part time or not on a tenure track, to voice their concerns and advocate for their working conditions.
That is why yesterday many members of our community were surprised by a union action at Elon by organizers of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). We had heard reports that some outside members of the union were approaching faculty in hallways and at their homes, but we had no advance notice of a campus demonstration or their intention to file a union election petition with the National Labor Relations Board on Thursday.
At the heart of Elon’s model of shared governance is the spirit of working together each year to advance working conditions for all faculty. In Academic Council, faculty members from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines come together to deliberate and advocate on matters impacting their colleagues. This is a body designed to give a voice and a vote to a variety of constituencies from Elon’s faculty membership of nearly 600. The Academic Council, unlike the SEIU, does not ask its members to pay dues.
We continue to believe in the value of Elon’s model of shared governance that offers a representative voice to the full range of our faculty. Deliberative dialogue is what we strive for as a community. Constructive conversations are a cornerstone to Elon’s culture.
Over the next week, the university will provide information about our position on the SEIU labor union, in addition to a broader discussion with all faculty at the regularly scheduled faculty meeting on Friday, Dec. 7. More details about these meetings will follow.
Additionally, the president is evaluating the latitude to create a task force, which would be our normal response, to work in partnership with the Academic Council to ensure perpetuation of the open dialogue between and among our university family. To be clear, however, under federal law the university cannot make promises to change terms of employment once a labor union files a petition for election, so we must be cautious. But, you can rest assured that we will work together, as we have in the past, to ensure the needs of our community are met.
All the best,