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Staff Unionization at American University

Some non-supervisory staff in the Provost division are seeking representation by the Service Employee International Union Local 500 (“SEIU”). 

AU's staff are an integral part of the university’s academic mission and the university respects their right to decide whether union representation is in their best interest. AU encourages every staff member to:

  1. become knowledgeable about what unionization would mean to non-supervisory staff in the Provost division
  2. consider the pros and cons
  3. make an informed personal decision, and
  4. vote in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board.

The decision to form a union is a personal matter. If there is a union election this fall, the outcome will be decided by a simple majority of those who cast ballots, even if only a minority of staff members vote. For example, if the proposed bargaining unit in the Provost division has 500 employees but only 100 of them vote in the election, potentially 51 staff members may decide the status of unionization for all 500 staff.

Having a union would mean that the bargaining unit negotiates with the university about things like wages, benefits, complaint or grievance procedures, and other terms and conditions of employment. In a bargaining process, each side asks for things and gives things up, so there’s no guarantee that all wages, benefits, avenues for input, and procedures that staff have now would be retained as-is, with more added. 

What would change if a union is elected, and what wouldn’t?

If a union is elected to represent the non-supervisory staff in the Provost’s division, most of our usual ways of doing things would change.

The Staff Council, Benefits Advisory Project Team, HR, and other established paths of staff involvement in decision-making would be replaced with a shop steward or union committee. Staff and supervisors would no longer discuss certain matters directly.

The university and the union would bargain on a periodic basis, but neither side would be able to make changes to the Collective Bargaining Agreement except through the bargaining process – possibly up to every 3 years.

Staff in the bargaining unit will pay fees or dues to the union, regardless of their desire for a union, or whether they voted.

There are no guarantees that staff (or the university) will end up with exactly what they want, since bargaining is a give and take. While some of the terms and conditions might improve, others might be less favorable.

What wouldn’t change, even with a bargaining agreement, are things like who your manager is, whether or not they manage you well, or how the faculty interact with staff. These are not terms and conditions of employment.

If you have questions or feedback for American University regarding staff unionization, email union@american.edu.

Compensation & Benefits

If staff unionize, will wages and benefits get better?

Will staff have a say in pay and benefits?

Pay & Benefits Info

Job Security & Career Growth

Would a union improve management practices?

Would a union improve job security?

Job Security & Growth Info

Staff Voice

Will staff voice in university affairs be improved by having a union?

Staff Voice Info

Background Information

What's a union?

Are there currently unions at AU?

Background Info

How an Election and Collective Bargaining Work

How does union organizing work?

What happens if there is an election?

How does the collective bargaining process work?

Unionizing Info

Guidance for Staff & Managers

What can staff members talk about?

What can managers do? What can't they do?

Staff & Manager Info