Staff opposes fees for union

By Drew Hunt

In response to alleged irresponsibility on the part of United Staff of Columbia College—Columbia’s designated staff labor union—Jennie Fauls, assistant director of First Year Writing, has formed the US of CC Opposition Forum.

The group was born after Fauls and other staff members received a letter from the US of CC demanding they submit a series of forms to the Illinois Education Association to complete their union membership. Additionally, a number of annual fees totaling $354 were to be paid by staff members on a date yet to be determined.

The result of members not submitting these forms, which were due Sept. 15, may be termination, according to the letter sent to staff members.

Despite the termination threat, some members of the opposition forum, including Fauls, chose not to submit their forms.

According to Fauls, some staff claim they never received the letter. Additionally, others were unaware of their membership in the union until they saw the letter.

Some staff members, have been critical of the role Human Resources plays concerning supplying the union with inaccurate contact information.

One person said their letter somehow ended up at their parent’s house.

In the past, Ellen Krutz, vice president of Human Resources, expressed incredulity toward any responsibility on her department’s behalf concerning staff members being unaware of the role they play in the US of CC.

“I can’t communicate with [the] employees about their union because the union represents them,” Krutz said. “It is how these things have to work. I still believe the [US of CC] is the one responsible for communicating with their membership. We provided as accurate a list as we can.”

Still, Fauls maintains that an alarmingly large number of people considered to be union members were completely unaware of their involvement in the US of CC, let alone of any fees that might come with being a union member.

“How can [the union] support this said Fauls. “There were those who didn’t get the letter, and I’m the first person who told them they’re even in the [union]. Basically, for the last week, I’ve been doing the union’s work.”

This perceived misrepresentation was the main catalyst in Fauls deciding to take action against the US of CC.

“All I want to do is not have anyone sign their name to a national union that you might not ever be able to extricate yourself from,” Fauls said.

However, according to Mike Bright, US of CC president and administrative assistant in the Film and Video Department, any perceived negligence on the US of CC’s part is not a matter of deliberate misrepresentation, but rather persistent confusion concerning the contract details as they relate to the staff.

“A lot of people were a little confused about it,” Bright said. “I had people in my department come to me and say ‘Am I going to get fired?’ And I’m like ‘No, no, no, no, no.’”

Bright said union leaders will continue to communicate with people who did not submit their forms, whether out of defiance or confusion, to ensure they stay informed on what is expected of them.

“We’re trying to get the people [who] didn’t turn in their forms to [do so],” Bright said. “The door is still open, but we need the forms as soon as possible so we know what’s going on.”

Issues surrounding communication between the union chiefs and the staff they represent have continued since February, when the US of CC and Columbia’s administration finally settled contract negotiations that spanned years through a voting process in which a large majority of staff members attested to not being privy to any voting taking place.

Therefore, some staff said they felt they were not given ample opportunity to vote on behalf of themselves.

When dismayed members asked for information regarding how many staff members voted in favor of the negotiations, US of CC leadership refused to release the information.

“I just think they don’t really know the scope of what they’re dealing with,” said Fauls. “I feel that they’re a bunglingly disorganized unit.”

Still, Bright maintains that despite the confusion, the US of CC has followed the guidelines it is expected to follow, saying it has met any and all state or federal guidelines placed in front of it.

When it comes to the possibility of staff termination, Bright maintains he must abide by contract stipulations.

“We’re bound by the contract,” Bright said. “But we’ll do our best [to help] people understand that not only are we bargaining for our members, but we’re bargaining for people who haven’t signed membership forms.”

He said he hopes no staff member will lose his or her job as a result of poor communication on the behalf of the US of CC.

“I know it’s sexy to say ‘Yes, we’re going to go and terminate people’ … but that’s not what we’re about,” Bright said. “We don’t want anybody to be terminated. God forbid.”