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SEIU 1199 at CSU
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Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Your Union

How do I know if I'm in the SEIU
bargaining unit?
When you began working at Cleveland State, you should have received material on the Union in your orientation pack from Human Resources. Employees designated as Professional Staff are automatically a part of the bargaining unit. Other unions on campus include Communications Workers of America (classified staff); American Association of University Professors (faculty), and the Fraternal Order of Police (university police).
Am I automatically in the Union if I’m
in the bargaining unit?
No. By law, SEIU 1199 is required to represent everyone in the bargaining unit. Joining the Union is a voluntary decision and gives you the right to vote on contracts, elect union officers, serve as an officer, and attend and participate in meetings. Moreover, as a member of the union, you will be taking a proactive role in the future of your and your colleagues’ workplace and working conditions.

Why should I bother joining the Union? What’s in it for me?

The union represents everyone in the bargaining unit—it is in your own best interest to be involved and active. Union membership gives you the right to vote on contracts, elect union officers, serve as an officer, attend meetings and provide your input on issues that affect the union and professional staff, serve on union committees and/or joint-labor management committees, and receive contract negotiation updates. Moreover, as a member of the Union, you will be taking a proactive role in the future of your and your colleagues’ workplace and working conditions.

You will also become eligible for various benefits that are offered exclusively to all SEIU members in the United States and Canada, such as legal services, a mail-order pharmacy, a scholarship program, and a mortgage program. These additional benefits are member benefits, and you must join the union to take advantage of them. These additional benefits are above and beyond your university benefits and are not related to CSU. SEIU uses its massive numbers to negotiate reduced rates for its members who are interested in these benefits. For more information about these benefits, visit the SEIU 1199 website at: www.seiu1199.org.

Seventy-one percent of Cleveland State’s professional staff members voted for union representation when the union was ratified in 1998. This vote sent a powerful message to the administration about employees’ dissatisfaction with certain working conditions that existed at that time and gave our negotiating team a strong bargaining position for our first two contracts. We have made improvements in the working lives of our members and, if we can maintain a strong level of membership, we can continue to make improvements.

How do I join the union? Simply fill out a membership application card and send it to Rita Grabowski, Chair of the Membership Committee (RT 1841) or to any member of the Executive Board.
Who are my union represenatives? Andi LoPresti, President on campus phone: 687-2186
Rita Grabowski, Vice President on campus phone: 687-3986
President Emerita, Gail Marredeth on campus phone: 687-2291
Delegate/Steward, Bob Martel on campus phone: 687-2214
Why do I have to pay dues if I don't
what to be in the Union?
All members of the bargaining pay monthly union dues under the Fair Share policy that the union won through hard negotiations in the first contract. Not every union local/chapter has fair share. We’re fortunate that we do, as it strengthens the bargaining unit.
What do I do if something bad is
happening to me on the job?
Consult with a union steward/delegate as soon as possible. You should also read the current contract to see if your supervisor/co-worker/workplace is in violation of any contract provisions.

What can the Union REALLY do for
me/why should I join?

The Union provides job security, collective action, and wage security. Before the professional staff were unionized, their salary increases came at the discretion of the university. In the 1997-1998 academic year (the year before the union came into existence), professional staff received a smaller salary increase than that received by unionized groups on campus. That won’t happen again. If you are applying for reclassification or have a problem with your supervisor or co-worker, the union can provide trained, knowledgeable assistance and advice. You aren’t alone.

Many people feel that white collar workers don’t need to be unionized, or that unions are only for blue collar workers. Nothing could be further from the truth. Collective action is appropriate for any group of workers that wants fair wages, positive working conditions, job security, and a voice in the future of its workplace.

Who picked this Union anyway?

Its members—your colleagues—did. For a number of years, the professional staff at CSU was governed by a personnel policy that many employees felt was inconsistently applied. There was also a strong feeling that there was no consistent or equitable salary structure. In 1992, the university and professional staff agreed on the formation of the Professional Staff Organization (PSO). This organization was not a legal bargaining agent for the professional staff; it merely had an advisory role to the university president. It could make recommendations, but it had no legal, binding, bargaining status, i.e., it could not negotiate a labor contract.

At the time, professional staff were the only campus employees who were not unionized, and it soon became evident that the PSO could not effectively address such personnel issues as comp time, workloads, and job security. In 1996, the university implemented a wage and compensation ranking system that pleased almost no one and enraged almost everyone. In the 1997-1998 academic year, for the first time, the salary increase received by professional staff was less than that received by the unionized groups on campus.

The event that really sparked the organizing effort was the university’s implementation of a wage and compensation ranking system. The university spent a considerable amount of money to hire an outside consulting firm to devise this system, which was based on questionnaires not tailored to a university setting, was unilaterally implemented, was inadequately explained and justified to the professional staff as a whole, ignored supervisors’ rankings of their own employees and substituted lower rankings with no explanatory data, and capped salaries and provided no concrete system to review the salary scales and adjust them upwards. This latter feature was especially disconcerting to more senior members whose salaries were suddenly capped with no prospect of receiving any increase—not even cost of living—for the remainder of their careers at CSU. Further, for these people there was an additional onus: since the public retirement systems determine one’s retirement income on the basis of the average of a person’s three year’s highest salaries, capping one’s salary also negatively affects one’s retirement income.

As a result, several professional staff members approached the PSO in January 1997 to ask that it explore the possibility of the professional staff joining a union. The PSO replied that such an endeavor was beyond its authority. Consequently, these same individuals began the job on their own. By April 1997, they had assembled a 25-person organizing committee that began to develop support for unionization. By September of the same year, the committee had obtained the support of nearly 60% of the potential bargaining unit and thus filed a request with the State Employee Relations Board (SERB) to hold an election to determine whether we would join SEIU District 925. After four months of negotiations with the university and SERB over the exact composition of the bargaining unit, we were ready for the election. On March 11, 1998, 71% of the professional staff in the bargaining unit voted to join SEIU District 925.

Since then, we feel that our contracts have improved the working conditions, job security, and salaries of our members. In late spring 2001, SEIU District 925 merged with SEIU District 1199 to form a much larger union that will ultimately provide us with more strength at the bargaining table.

How do I know whether I should file a grievance?

If you think that management has violated your rights or the contract, or if you have questions regarding your workplace, talk with your delegate. You have the right to file a formal complaint when one of your supervisors has violated your contractual rights. This formal complaint is called a “grievance,” and the system used to process this compliant is referred to in the contract as the “grievance procedure.” Make a point of reading the current contract to find out exactly what your rights and responsibilities are as a professional staff employee.

If you and your delegate determine that a contract violation has occurred, together you will fill out a “grievance form.” If management refuses to settle the grievance, the Union may argue your case before an impartial arbitrator, who will make the final ruling. Arbitrators have the power to order an employer to correct the situation. Please remember that grievance procedures have strict time limits and must be filed promptly.

Remember that not all workplace complaints are grievances. Winning a grievance depends on the facts and evidence the Union collects. Working closely with your delegate will greatly improve your chances of success. The key question that decides grievances involving discipline is whether or not management had “just cause” to impose the discipline.

What are Weingarten Rights?

Weingarten Rights are certain steps that are designed to protect members of a union in dealings with management that could potentially lead to discipline and/or termination. You have the right to representation by the your union delegate or administrative organizer during conversations with your supervisor if you believe the conversation is disciplinary in nature. The Weingarten Rights include:

  • Demand union representation. You must ask for union representation before or during the interview. Management does not have to inform you of this right and most likely will not.
  • Refuse to proceed without union representation. A questioner must be told of your desire for representation. Refusal to cooperate on your end can be viewed as insubordination. If management refuses to allow you representation, stay in the room but remain silent.
  • Do not make any written or verbal statements of guilt or innocence. You cannot be forced to make a statement. The most appropriate response in this situation is to make no statement—claiming innocence is considered to be a statement.
  • Do not waive your right to representation. If you proceed in questioning without representation, you have waived your right to representation and any statement you make can be used against you.

Please remember that Weingarten Rights do not apply to everyday conversations between union members and supervisors regarding regular job duties or work performance.

How can I get involved in the Union? Go to meetings, talk with the members of the Executive Board, volunteer for a committee, or run for a position on the Executive Board or Negotiating Team yourself. You’ll be glad you did.
Won't I get in trouble with my boss if s/he knows I'm involved with the Union? You have the right to union involvement. No one can force you to join or not join the Union. It would be illegal for a supervisor to issue repercussions to an employee solely because he or she was involved in the Union.
Why is the Union so political? We have to be to affect any real change.
Why isn’t the Union more visible on campus? the Union is only as strong as its membership. When you get involved, your union is stronger.
Who decides the terms of our contracts? the Union holds elections for union members to represent the bargaining unit on the negotiating team. Any member of the Union can run for the negotiating team. Te union negotiating team and the university negotiating team jointly work out the terms of each three-year contract.
I don't like some of the terms of the
contract; can I quit the Union?
You can choose to join or not join the Union; membership is voluntary. However, you are automatically a part of the bargaining unit by virtue of being a professional staff member at Cleveland State University. Unless you file an opt-out form, you will pay Fair Share dues whether you are a member or not. If you choose not to be a member of the Union, you will not have the opportunity to vote on the contract or have input in other issues relating to workplace conditions.
This page last modified Monday, 12-May-2014 17:01:00 EDT