Valencia Union FAQs
Efforts to Unionize at Valencia College: Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
EFFORTS TO UNIONIZE AT VALENCIA COLLEGE
Q. What is the College's position on unionization?
A. The College prefers to remain nonunion and not have an unaffiliated third party interfering with our operations. We believe that a union free environment allows us to continue our tradition of being a forward thinking academic institution. You are part of a well-educated, highly skilled, engaged workforce that is deeply proud of its affiliation with Valencia. As employees of a college dedicated to inquiry and critical analysis, we know you will think carefully about the decision to unionize, educate yourselves, and ask wise and probing questions both of the union and of management. If certain process requirements occur, some of you may even be asked to vote on what you sincerely believe to be in your and the College's best interests. This may be one of the most impactful decisions that you will make about your working relationships. If it occurs, the College will respect the outcome of that vote.
Q. Does Florida law provide employees with any protection if they do not want to
take part in union organizing activities?
A. Yes, Florida's Public Employees Relations Act ("PERA") specifically give you the right to refuse to take any action in support of an employee organization, including any union organizing activities. This is the same right that protects an employee's right to join a union and engage in other protected concerted activity. The College respects your right to free choice and it will not discriminate against you because you support or oppose a union.
Q. If employees decide to vote for the union, does that mean the College can no
longer manage faculty members without the union's approval?
A. No. Just as PERA provides employees with rights, it also provides employers with rights. Specifically, public employers such as the College are vested with rights necessary for the management of government, including the ability to set standards, direct, and discipline employees.
QUESTIONS REGARDING UNION ORGANIZING PROCESS
Q. What is the process by which a union becomes certified to represent employees?
A. To become certified by the Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC), a union will have to file a petition for representation with the PERC seeking an election in an appropriate unit of employees. To do so, the union will have to demonstrate a "showing of interest" that at least 30 percent of the employees in that unit are interested in having the union represent them. This showing of interest is satisfied by the submission of membership or authorization cards signed by individual employees indicating such interest. The authorization card is a legal document. You should read it carefully and be sure all your questions are answered before signing an authorization card.
Q. If I sign an authorization card, must I vote for the union?
A. No. You can change your mind after signing (or not signing) an authorization card and vote against (or for) the union after you educate yourself about unionization.
Q. Can I get my authorization card back if I change my mind?
A. In theory, yes. However, there is little likelihood that a union will return your card to you once it is signed. For this reason it is important that you strongly consider your options before signing an authorization card.
Q. What is the "appropriate bargaining unit" to which you refer?
A. It is a group of employees that share a community of interest amongst one another with regard to compensation and working conditions and is otherwise appropriate for bargaining under the law.
Q. Is everybody in the bargaining unit?
- Supervisors: those with the authority to hire, promote, evaluate the performance, and terminate the employment of other employee are not in the bargaining unit.
- Managers: those who formulate and effectuate management policy and exercise independent judgment are not in the bargaining unit.
- Confidential employees: those who work for managers who set labor policy for the College are not in the bargaining unit. Human resources employees, for example, are often confidential employees.
Q. Who determines whether I am in the bargaining unit or not?
A. Both Valencia and the union will have an opinion on whether you are a member of the bargaining unit. Valencia and the union may agree, or we may not. Ultimately, the PERC determines whether you are a member of the bargaining unit.
Q. What happens once the PERC determines that the proposed bargaining unit is appropriate?
A. The PERC will conduct a secret ballot election on campus. If your position is in the desired bargaining unit, you will vote whether you want to be represented by the union. Only you will know your vote.
Q. How is the vote decided?
A. By a majority of those employees who actually vote. For example, if the bargaining unit has 120 members and 80 of them turn out to vote, and the vote is 41 to 39, then those 41 employees determine the union status of all 120 members of the bargaining unit, and the union is established. If the union is established, it will be your exclusive representative, even if you voted against the union or simply decided not to vote in the election.
Q. If a union is elected, can it be voted out?
A. Yes, but not easily. Unions do not stand for reelection each year. Most unions remain the representative of the employees in the unit forever. However, the law does provide a mechanism for holding another election. In order to have such an election and decertify a union, the employees in the unit must themselves file a decertification petition with the PERC, along with a 30% showing of interest, just as in the certification process. The PERC will process the petition and hold another election.
QUESTIONS INVOLVING THE WORKPLACE WITH A UNION
Q. What does it mean to be unionized?
A. If the PERC, after an election, certifies a union as the exclusive representative of a bargaining unit of which you are a member, it first and foremost means that the union exclusively represents you on all matters involving wages, benefits, hours and other terms and conditions of employment. It means the College must deal with that union on all such matters, and your supervisor may no longer deal with you individually with respect to the terms and conditions of your employment.
Q. If employees are unionized, do I have to be a member of the bargaining unit, even
if I voted no about a union?
A. Yes. Anyone employed in a classification included within the bargaining unit is subject to the collective bargaining agreement.
Q. What happens if I do not want to pay dues?
A. Under Florida law, you are not required to pay union dues. Nobody can force you to do so as a condition of your employment.
Q. How much are dues?
A. Dues will vary considerably from union to union. Some unions will charge between 1-2% of your salary each year. Others will charge you a flat amount per pay period. Unions revisit dues and raise them from time to time.
Q. Who gets the dues?
A. Generally some portion of your dues will go to a union's national headquarters to pay their salaries and administrative cost. You should be sure you understand how much of your dues would stay at Valencia and how much would be sent away.
Q. Are there other costs?
A. Depending on the union, you may have to pay a special assessment from time to time and may have to pay fees if you violate union rules.
QUESTIONS REGARDING COLLECTIVE BARGAINING
Q. If a union is elected, what happens next?
A. At some point, the union and the College would engage in collective bargaining for a master contract, called a collective bargaining agreement, covering you and all the employees in the bargaining unit.
Q. What is collective bargaining?
A. It is the process by which an employer and a union negotiate wages, benefits, hours and other terms and conditions of employment for the group represented by the union.
Q. Does the law require that any particular provisions go into a union contract?
A. No. The law only requires that each side engage in good faith negotiations but the law does not guarantee to employees that any particular provision be part of the contract.
Q. How does a union pick a bargaining team? Who decides on the issues and proposals
for collective bargaining on the union side? How does a union decide when to modify
its proposals or agree to the administration's proposals?
A. Each union is its own entity with its own policies, priorities, officers, and internal politics, and each union makes its own decisions regarding these and related questions.
Q. Does the law require that negotiations begin with the current wages, hours and
working conditions and that only improvements are made to such items?
A. No. Each side is free to make proposals across the table that may alter the status quo. As a result of collective bargaining, you may end up with more than you have now in some areas, less than you have now, or the same as what you have now. This all depends on the negotiations.
Q. What happens if the parties get stuck and cannot agree on a contract?
A. If the parties fail to reach an agreement, and impasse is declared, and the issues would go before a special master, who acts like an arbitrator. The special master would make a recommendation, and the Valencia College District Board of Trustees may take the action it thinks is in the best interest of all concerned on each issue before it.
Q. How long does it take to negotiate a first collective bargaining agreement?
A. There is wide variation on this depending on the parties and the issues, but it is common for first contracts to take over a year to complete.
Q. Will I get my regularly scheduled pay raises while the first collective bargaining
agreement is being negotiated?
A. Not necessarily. Because the collective bargaining process does not guarantee pre-established levels of pay or benefits, the College and the union will not know whether there will be changes to pay and to benefits until the conclusion of collective bargaining.
Q. What about the issue of job security? Can the union protect my job?
A. Layoffs and reorganization may occur for any number of reasons, but usually because an organization needs to bring its expenses in line with expected resources or when there is a strategic shift in direction. A union typically cannot stop downsizing from occurring. Downsizing is usually viewed as a management decision and many employers with unions have laid off employees. Collective bargaining agreements will often have provisions on the notice of layoffs or the order of layoffs, but no union can guarantee that you will not be laid off.
Q. Can a union bargain over who the supervisors are?
A. No. The selection of supervisors, managers, and administrators is considered to be a managerial prerogative and is not a mandatory subject of bargaining.
Q. I've heard it said that a union will give staff more of a "voice" ...will it?
A. As a legal matter, as mentioned above, if a union is elected, it becomes your "exclusive" representative with respect to wages, benefits, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. The insertion of an outside third party, in the form of a union, between your supervisor and you may potentially limit direct exchanges concerning issues of importance to you.
For instance, Valencia has hosted open town-hall meetings on every campus for several years in which we invite part-time faculty to hear updates on the college's work and to speak directly with college leadership on any issue or topic. The involvement of a union would restrict our ability to meet with you in such a setting, to respond to your questions directly, and to take your suggestions forward for implementation as we did when adding paid time off for part-time faculty.
Q. Will a union's interests always be aligned with mine?
A. Not necessarily. Because the union is representing a very diverse group of individuals in a single bargaining unit, the union may or may not be reflecting any individual's preferences, including yours. For example, if you are a less senior employee, you may not like a union's emphasis that personnel decisions be dictated by seniority rather than effort and performance. The union is your agent for better or worse and is beholden to the unit as a whole, not to any individual employee. This is why it is important for you to consider whether you want to turn over such matters to a union business agent or union officers.
QUESTIONS YOU MAY HAVE ABOUT COMMUNICATION AND ACCESS
Q. During working hours, do I have an obligation to speak or meet with an outside
individual who says they are affiliated with a union?
A. No. The College does not recognize any unions. Accordingly, any labor union is treated by the College like any other outside organization.
Q. What about other employees who wish to speak to me about unions?
A. Solicitation by employees for any reason should only be done during the non-working time of both the employee doing the soliciting and the employee being solicited. Non-working time would include such periods as before or after work, break times, and lunch times. Again, the choice of whether or not to talk with someone, including a co-worker, is entirely up to you.
Q. Do I have to talk to anyone from a union if they come to my classroom, office,
or request to talk with me in a Center for Teaching/Learning?
A. Again, the choice of whether or not to talk with someone, including a co-worker, is entirely up to you. Specifically, labor organizing rules prohibit union organizers from approaching you in places where work takes place and their interruption of your work duties is not permissible. You should feel free to decline the conversation, reach out to your dean for support, or call security for assistance.
Q. Do I have to talk to anyone from a union if they call me or visit me at home? How does the union get my personal information like my home address and phone number?A. No. You are free to speak to them or not. There is no law or policy that requires you to speak with union representatives either at home or in the workplace, and you are free to respond accordingly. The college regularly responds to public records requests and under Florida statute, information including your home address and phone number is a public record (unless you qualify for one of several narrow and specific exemptions). Reference: "Working in the Sunshine State: Facts Every College Employee should Know" for more information on Florida's Public Records laws.