Marywood’s new president and Board chair have sent letters to the school’s faculty asking them to vote “no” on forming a union.
The Wood Word obtained two letters sent to faculty’s homes over the weekend from Sr. Mary Persico, IHM, Ed.D., incoming university president, and Dr. Ann Henry, chair of the Board of Trustees. Both Sr. Mary and Henry asked faculty members to reject the formation of a union if presented with the opportunity by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
“I am writing to you on behalf of the Board’s Shared Governance Committee and the full Board of Trustees to share my thoughts on the recent NLRB petition to form a union at Marywood University,” Henry said in the opening of the letter.
Henry said the Board has heard the faculty’s issues and has taken steps to open dialogue through the Shared Governance Committee, written communication, and three open sessions providing updates and allowing faculty to share concerns.
Henry’s said in the letter the introduction of a union would have negative consequences.
According to Henry, having a union will put a spokesperson between the faculty, the administration and the Board and limit the possibility of having open dialogue with Sr. Mary, the new university president.
Henry added that faculty members will be required to pay union dues of $696 per year per full-time faculty. Henry continued to say a union will not change the financial state and will generate negative publicity that could impact enrollment and donations.
“The University has challenged the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) since religious institutions are not covered by the Board,” said Henry in the letter.
“I know from speaking with so many of you that we all share a common love for Marywood and a common purpose in seeing the success of the University for many years to come,” said Henry. “I ask that you take these considerations fully into your deliberation and think what is best for you and for the University.”
Sr. Mary’s letter had a similar message.
“I learned that you are considering the possibility of exercising your ‘right to assemble’ into Union status,” said Sr. Mary via her letter.
Sr. Mary said she understands faculty’s position in this situation, but also thinks this could be harmful to a new relationship.
“I also realize that such a move will shift our relationship from one of ‘esprit de corps’ to one of cautious engagement. I must admit that I was looking forward to the former,” said Sr. Mary.
Sr. Mary said she expressed her desire to listen to faculty members and be transparent in communicating decisions that will affect the Marywood community.
“We need to roll up our sleeves and work together. We need to have access to one another and a free-flowing relationship that will allow everyone to grow personally and professionally,” said Sr. Mary.
Sr. Mary concluded her letter by asking faculty to postpone a decision to unionize by voting “no” should the NLRB authorize an election.
However, at the April 20 press conference where Sr. Mary was introduced to the local community, she shared somewhat different thoughts about faculty forming a union.
“I think the faculty has to do what they feel is best. I would love to sit down and talk with them before they did that [ form a union ], but I certainly would not stand in their way,” said Sr. Mary during the press conference. “I think as I said it may be helpful if we could all talk first.”
The NLRB took testimony from faculty and administration representatives and is expected to issue a ruling on an election by mid-May.
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