About those meetings...
Many Poly employees have been invited to meetings with Jim Monica, Jose Caraballo and/or Marie Forrest from the American Labor Group (ALG). The ALG is a consulting firm that offers union avoidance services. Poly administration has told us that they do not think a union is the right choice for our school, and they have hired ALG in order to avoid a union. ALG is not a neutral party. Some people had questions about the meetings and the information provided.
Below are answers to questions that have come up after our colleagues attended a meeting with ALG. At the bottom of the document, you’ll find statements made by ALG that also needed clarification.
Please reach out to email@example.com if you have other questions so we can get you accurate and complete answers from Allyson Belovin, our attorney.
“I was told that the ballot will have different questions for professionals and non-professionals and that means there might be two separate unions. Is that true?”
Simple answer: The NLRB categorizes workers as either “professional” or “non-professional”. We want a single union that represents both categories together. To do so, “professional” workers will need to vote yes to both questions on their ballot.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is a Federal agency that oversees union elections and monitors labor and workplace issues across the country. We - meaning the Poly Community Union - have petitioned the NLRB to hold an election at our school. The NLRB requires what is called a Sonotone election. A Sonotone election is held when ONE union seeks to represent a mixed group of employees who might require different types of contracts (teachers, coaches, nurses, administrative assistants, maintenance workers, etc).
There will be two questions on the ballot for people labeled “professionals” (including teachers, learning support staff, librarians, counselors, deans, athletic trainers, IT, and many colleagues in the communications, advancement, and admissions offices). One question will be whether you support the union; the other will be whether you want to unionize with your so-called “non-professional” colleagues. We ask you to vote YES to both questions.
“Non-professionals” includes engineers, maintenance and grounds staff, classroom assistants, non-teaching coaches, equipment managers, administrative assistants, housekeeping staff, coordinators, and attendance and mailroom supervisors. The only question on the non-professional ballots will be whether you support the union.
If you are unsure what category you fall under according to the NLRB, we will make sure you know before election day.
“I was told that if there is a union, while our contracts are negotiated, the administration can’t make any changes, even if it takes 5 years to negotiate. Does this mean our salaries might be frozen while we negotiate?”
Simple answer: Our yearly salaries will continue to increase “as usual” for the whole time that our contracts are being negotiated.
It is true that the administration cannot make unilateral changes while we are negotiating our contracts. This means that they must continue to do everything that they have done for the past several years. Our salaries have gone up over the past years, and have never been frozen. Therefore, freezing salaries would be a change and would be illegal! This applies to other changes as well. For example, the administration cannot make sweeping changes to the amount of hours we work or argue that we need to start “clocking in and clocking out”. Whatever work requirements and salary increases you have experienced will continue to follow their usual trajectory. It is through the democratic process of contract negotiation that any desired changes will be implemented.
"I was told that the union would likely try to negotiate for a multi-year contract for employees. Does that mean my salary would stay the same for the duration of that contract - three, four, even five years?"
Simple answer: No. At all of our unionized peer schools, their multi-year contracts contain annual cost of living pay raises; at many such schools, there is also a salary scale where employees’ salaries increase with each year (or in some cases, two years) of experience. We would advocate for the same.
The Poly Community Union would be a group of elected employees who represent every union member. It will be a democratic organization where we come together to make choices about our desired working conditions, salaries. etc. There is no reason for us to try to negotiate for something that none of us want. Based on the conversations we’ve been having with our colleagues from the different departments and campuses, we have an idea of the kinds of changes that the vast majority of us are interested in. However, the union does not guarantee any specific parameters yet because we have not negotiated yet. We have hopes about what we want to achieve, but none of this is possible until the Poly Community Union wins the vote, elects representatives, democratically determines our priorities, and negotiates for those priorities.
“I was told in the meeting that the Poly Community Union lawyer had something to do with the United Auto Workers union. I also saw something about this in Audrius’s recent email. Are we involved with the UAW in some way?”
Simple answer: Our lawyer, Allyson Belovin, is an experienced labor lawyer who represents many different, separate clients including the United Auto Workers union, as well as the Poly Community Union. We are not connected in any way to the UAW.
The United Auto Workers is an international national labor union that, despite its name, represents lots of professional and white collar workers, and organized the union at Brooklyn Friends School. We are not working with them in any way, shape, or form. We are forming an independent union with no affiliation with any outside union like the UAW. Our lawyer, Allyson Belovin, was recommended to us by colleagues at Fieldston, whose teachers' union she represents; she also represents the UAW in separate matters. But we have no relationship with the UAW. In fact, we considered working with them early on but decided more than a year ago not to work with them because their fees are high and they did not meet the particular needs of our community.
“I asked if what we said in our meetings with ALG was being shared with administration and Jose said it wasn’t. Why was Marie taking notes?”
Simple answer: We don’t have a simple answer, because Jose and Marie gave us conflicting answers.
ALG has been hired by Poly’s administration and they are taking active notes during the meetings they have with us. Jose shared in one meeting that those notes “are turned into a report for lawyers.” When asked which lawyers, he replied, “Poly’s lawyers,” meaning Littler Mendelson, “not the union lawyers.” So while Jose said that they were not sharing notes with administration, he did acknowledge that he is sharing them with the Poly lawyers, who “can share them with Poly administration.”
“Are these meetings optional?”
Simple answer: Yes, they are optional.
Statements made by ALG:
“Union organizers have all of your private information and might show up on your doorstep.”
The NLRB requires employers to share contact information of all eligible employees ahead of a vote. If you haven’t heard from us yet, please be on the lookout for an email or a phone call from us so that we can answer your questions directly. You can always reach out to us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The union will charge dues, fines, and assessments.”
If we win the vote, everyone will have the right to vote on our union’s constitution which will determine what our union dues will be. This is a democratic process that you will be involved with and we expect dues to be 1% or less of our annual salaries. The UAW, in contrast, charges 2%. With low overhead and an in-house union, we are confident that dues of 1% or less will be sufficient to cover all of our expenses.
“These are your choices: vote for the union, or vote for the school.”
We believe a vote for the union is a vote for the school. Our school is a lot more than just administration.
“The vote might take place at a hotel.”
It will not. The vote will take place on Wednesday, May 17th from 11:00am - 4:30pm in the Faculty Room on the Dyker Campus and Thursday, May 18th from 7:45- 11:45am in the Library at the Lower School. The votes cast on these dates will determine if we have a union at Poly.
“The union is called Poly Prep Union.”
Our union is called the Poly Community Union.