Tuesday, April 08, 2008

More Union Busting at Montgomery College

I’ve seen quite a few union-busting tactics in my time but the latest one used by Montgomery College against its adjunct professors ranks as one of the most creative.

A couple weeks ago, we ran a four-part series on Montgomery College’s efforts to break a union organizing campaign by its adjunct professors. The college’s adjuncts earn maximum pay of $10,560 per semester and do not have health insurance. When they told the college they wanted to vote on representation by SEIU Local 500, the college reacted by hiring an expensive “union-avoidance” attorney and sending out misleading propaganda to the adjuncts. But as we predicted, Montgomery College’s union-busting campaign had only begun.

It’s common practice for a union-busting employer to argue about the definition of the bargaining unit – that is, the group of workers who would be covered by a collective bargaining agreement. Some employers want to shrink the unit. Others want to subtract employees that they believe to be pro-union or add employees that they think are anti-union. But Montgomery College’s definition of the bargaining unit is simple: there isn’t one.

In a letter to SEIU shown below, Montgomery College’s union-avoidance lawyer Darrell VanDeusen states, “The College has determined that the employees named in the SEIU’s petition are not considered public employees for the purposes of collective bargaining.” So since there are no eligible employees, there should be no election.

Section 16-412(a)(14) of Maryland law states, “Public employee means an employee employed by the public employer except: (i) Employees involved directly in the determination of policy; (ii) Supervisory or confidential employees; and (iii) Student assistants.” Which one of these exceptions applies to the adjunct professors? Conveniently, VanDeusen does not say. Perhaps a further exchange of letters will smoke him out.

But that would play into the college’s hands because the clock is ticking. SEIU Local 500 wants to hold an election before the semester ends and the adjuncts leave campus. And who knows if the college will allow the pro-union rank-and-file leaders among the adjuncts to return next year? After all, it’s hardly unknown for union supporters to suddenly receive unfavorable performance evaluations after many years of sterling service.

Now that its public employees are not really public employees, we should expect Montgomery College to say that it’s not a college. Or maybe that Montgomery County is not a county. Or maybe even that the institution does not actually exist on Planet Earth in contrast to the mistaken beliefs of some. Clearly, they will say anything to avoid a free and fair election for their adjunct professors.

So here’s our question for the County Executive and County Council: why are you allowing this deplorable farce to continue? And how much of our property tax increase will go to pay for all this union busting?