What is a union?
A union is meant to create a balance between the power of the administration and the voice of its employees. Specifically, a union is an organized group of employees that joins together to negotiate the terms of their employment with their employer. Statistically, this leads to better outcomes for employees: for example, current data shows that unionized workers make about 15% more than non-unionized workers. Without a union, individuals must negotiate alone; history has shown that this leads to employees getting a worse deal.
Source: U.S. Dept. of Labor
Why go independent?
We want an independent union, meaning one created and run entirely by Poly employees. Peer schools like Fieldston and Friends Seminary have had independent unions since the 1970s. We believe that an independent union run by Poly faculty and staff, not outside organizers, is right for our community. It will mean less bureaucracy, lower annual dues, and more flexibility to prioritize those issues that promote equity, increase employee retention, and improve the quality of education our school provides.
When did this campaign begin?
The Poly Community Union was conceived by a handful of concerned teachers in the winter of 2021. Our organizing committee grew from department to department, to the Lower School division, and into other sectors of the school, including athletics, maintenance, and non-teaching staff. After a year-long process of educating our colleagues through one-on-one conversations and taking a “temperature check” to determine the level of support, we began our card signing campaign in December 2022. By early March, an overwhelming majority of employees had signed union cards, and we officially requested that the school recognize our union. They declined, and we petitioned the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to oversee an election at our workplace.
What are the dues?
Our dues would be no more than 1% of annual salaries, in comparison to 1.5% for public school employees and 2% for employees at schools that unionize with the UAW and other large unions. At our school, dues that employees will pay will cover the legal fees associated with collective-bargaining and provide stipends for those elected to serve in the union.
Who is our lawyer?
We have hired Allyson Belovin, a partner at Levy Ratner in Manhattan, to represent us. Allyson represents the teachers union at Fieldston and has extensive experience working in schools and a wide array of other workplaces. Read her bio here.
How will the Union work?
The governing structure, constitution, and dues of the union are all things that we will vote on once our union is recognized by the National Labor Relations Board. We have been actively researching the governing structures and constitutions at other peer schools and are in the process of drafting the constitution that all members of the union will vote on. Please email us if you would like to see a working draft of the constitution or be a part of this process in any way!
Would we lose our flexibility?
At peer schools, employees do not need to clock in or clock out. Daily issues are still addressed with supervisors. Union reps are available to hear and address grievances, should they arise; and the union plays an active role in negotiating multiyear contracts and interfacing with administration on employee concerns.
How do we know that unions work?
We know unions work because they've been working for over a hundred years. The first union was formed in 1866, and unions are the reason we work 40 hours a week (it used to be anywhere from 60-100) and why we have weekends off to rest and enjoy the rest of our lives. If unions can change all of society for the better, they can change Poly for the better, too. If you'd like to learn more about the history of the good unions have done across America, click here.