The documents included here are intended to aid workers in organizing their workplaces and maintaining knowledge of their rights under federal and state law.
Student Workers Coalition Constitution and Bylaws: Proposed Draft, pending GOC ratification, 9/26/17: SWC Proposed Constitution- draft, 9:26:17
Organizing FAQ, explaining NLRB rights and the process of unionization: Organizing FAQ
The NLRB website is here.
This FAQ is intended to be detailed, but not comprehensive. If you have other questions, please direct them to a member of the General Organizing Committee, your departmental organizer, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about legal rights is available from the National Labor Relations Board at www.nlrb.gov.
What is the SWC?
We are a democratic union unaffiliated with the AFL-CIO or any outside political groups, by and for Reed students. We fight to improve the wages and working conditions of all Reed student workers, guarantee our right to self-determination on the job and ensure student grievances are heard and responded to. We are committed to representing all student workers within the union, and to fighting for the workplace rights of people of color, women, trans and non-binary people, the LGBTQIA+ community and other historically oppressed peoples. Instances of workplace bias, exclusion and oppression that are rooted in identity are economic issues, and cannot be separated from other fights for workers’ rights. Inspired by The Fight for $15 campaigns around the world and by our country’s proud history of workers’ organizing to build a better future, the SWC is a voice for student workers- we want respect on the job and a living wage.
What is a union?
Unions are regulated by the Department of Labor, and by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) under the provisions of several federal laws, most notably the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). A union is a collective bargaining agent (CBA)- an entity authorized by workers at a particular job to negotiate on their behalf with their employer over wages, hours and working conditions. Workers are organized as bargaining units- sets of workers with common issues employed by a single employer.
How are HA’s Involved?
HA’s are organizing alongside student wage workers under the umbrella of the student workers coalition. Because HA’s are not only payed differently but also experience a radically different work environment than wage workers, their concerns and demands are unique and therefore most efficiently addressed through a separate union branch. The two unions support each other by seeking the same form of recognition from the college and providing mutual support for demand projects.
Can I be fired or retaliated against by my employer for signing a card, attending a union meeting or organizing with my co-workers?
No- provided you do not commit any illegal acts, collective action is a guaranteed federal right protected under the NLRA. If you are allowed to discuss non-work related matters at work, you can discuss unionization with your co-workers. If you are not otherwise subject to a uniform requirement you can wear a union pin or shirt. If your employer fires you, cuts your hours, threatens you, or even questions you about union activity in a manner that makes you feel coerced or harassed, you have a right to file an unfair labor practices complaint against your employer with the NLRB or pursue other legal remedy. You have an absolute right to unionize and advocate for improved working conditions and pay with your coworkers, and the SWC will fight for that right and for you if you are retaliated against.
Does my employer have to negotiate with the union?
If the union is authorized by a majority of workers in a bargaining unit, then the employer must recognized the union and negotiate in good faith with the union regarding wages, hours and conditions. This is a legal requirement, and must be carried out by the employer and the union.
How is a union recognized by the employer?
A union can be recognized in several ways. If 30% of workers in a bargaining unit sign cards or a petition authorizing the union as their CBA, the NLRB will administer an election regardless of whether the employer agrees to it. If more than 50% of workers vote to approve the union in an open election, the employer must recognize the union. If more than 50% of workers in a bargaining unit have signed cards authorizing the union or have signed a petition, the election may be waived. The employer may also agree to voluntarily recognize the union, and negotiate with it at any time.
Who pays me?
When you join the SWC you will still be paid through the business office with your hours approved and organized via departmental budgets. As part of our demands we are seeking an increase in departmental budgets to insure that our wage increase come from an across the board bump to departments. This means that departments will not have to find places in their existing budgets to cut from in order to increase student wages.
What process is the SWC pursuing to gain recognition?
We aim to sign a majority of workers in bargaining units to authorization cards in each department where students are employed. We hope the College will act in in the interests of the community at large by recognizing the need for greater student worker representation on the job, and the need for improved wages and working conditions, and act in good faith to address the needs of workers through voluntary recognition of the SWC. If the College chooses to contest our claim, we will pursue unionization through normal NLRB procedures.
How is the SWC organized? Who makes decisions?
The SWC is currently directed by a provisional General Organizing Committee made up of student workers, in consultation with organizers in individual departments. Upon ratification of the SWC constitution, and prior to negotiations occurring with the College, departments organized by the SWC will elect representatives to represent them both to their immediate supervisors and to the College administration. The SWC constitution calls for majority votes of members to approve all policies, resolutions and contracts. As a union dedicated to democratic control by the rank and file membership, power and decision making is ultimately invested in the hands of normal workers.
What is a contract? Who decides what goes in it?
A contract is the collective bargaining agreement between the employer and the union. It applies to all members of the union in the bargaining unit, and may apply to other employees within the shop as well. All contracts negotiated by the SWC will be subject to a majority vote by the membership for approval, with opportunity given for members to discuss and debate the terms. Under the SWC constitution, contracts will be negotiated with Reed by elected representatives of all the departments that will be covered by the contract, ensuring representation of rank and file members within negotiations. Contracts last for whatever period of time the union and the employer agree upon.
How will this affect my relationship with my managers?
One of the best things about Reed is the wonderful relationship many student workers have with their managers. The SWC does not seek to drive a wedge between workers and managers, but rather to address the College administration directly in order to get student workers a living wage, better working conditions, and fair representation. The SWC will provide a grievances process and a mediation process for addressing any concerns student workers do have with their managers, in order to make sure work is fair, but our focus is on working together to make work better for everyone, our managers included. Having a union doesn’t mean we have to constantly fight with our managers- it simply means we have our own voice on the job, and a means to improve our pay. Self-determination has been an important part of Reed’s academic culture and student-life since its inception, and we view the SWC as upholding that tradition.
Will I have to pay dues?
The SWC currently collects no dues or initiation fees. Any changes to this would need to be ratified by a majority vote of the membership.
Will I have to go on strike?
A strike, while being both an inalienable right of workers and a sometimes-necessary step taken to address unfair working conditions, is also a tool of last resort. Under the SWC constitution, no strikes would be approved without a majority vote of the membership and opportunity for workers to comment and debate. A strike means significant hardship for striking workers, and should only be undertaken after all other means have been exhausted, and even then, only with the support of an overwhelming majority of workers. The SWC intends to avoid striking wherever possible, but acknowledges that strikes, throughout labor’s history, have been frequently necessary to gain concessions from employers. The union cannot force you to go on strike, but if the union voted to strike and you went to work, you could have your membership revoked and lose your right to vote and your advocate on the job. Strikes only succeed if all workers support them- a strike is a powerful tool, but one that must be used wisely.
Do I have to join the union?
No, but you should! Joining gives you a vote in the union and full access to participation as a member. Just like you have a right to form a union, you have a right to not join one. The SWC expects all its members to treat their coworkers with respect, and this includes workers who do not choose to join a union. Once recognized, the union will represent your workplace with or without your approval- joining ensures you have a voice in the union, but the union will not retaliate against you if you choose not to join.