Local

Second faculty group votes to unionize at Saint Martin’s University

Katie Bugyis, center, a professor of religious studies at Saint Martin’s University, directs students and staff taking part in a “teach-in” in November to protest the school’s opposition to unionization. Thursday, a second faculty groupvoted to join Service Employees International Union Local 925, and are hoping to negotiate contracts with the university.
Katie Bugyis, center, a professor of religious studies at Saint Martin’s University, directs students and staff taking part in a “teach-in” in November to protest the school’s opposition to unionization. Thursday, a second faculty groupvoted to join Service Employees International Union Local 925, and are hoping to negotiate contracts with the university. Staff file

Tenured and tenure-track faculty members and librarians at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey have voted to form a union.

They are the second group at the private Catholic university to unionize. Last June, Saint Martin’s adjunct and contingent faculty members also voted to join the Service Employees International Union.

An online election was conducted last week by BallotPoint, according to SEIU Local 925 in Seattle. The results were delivered to university officials about 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Saint Martin’s spokeswoman Genevieve Canceko Chan said.

Of the 64 ballots cast, 46, were “yes” votes, according to Caitlin Benstead, a communications organizer with SEIU. Eighty people were eligible to participate in the election, she said.

Chan said university officials were “saddened to learn that SEIU unilaterally decided to hold a secret election during Holy Week, one of the most sacred periods of the Catholic religious calendar.”

The university’s administration, Board of Trustees and Saint Martin’s Abbey welcome direct dialog with its faculty members, she said. Tenured and tenure-track faculty play a big role in the management of the university by serving as voting members on board committees. She said there already are avenues in place for faculty members collectively to address working conditions, such as the Faculty Senate.

“We have not wavered in our long-held belief that inserting an external party, such as SEIU, into the dialog and shared governance process undermines our Benedictine values and the university’s mission,” Chan said.

In an SEIU Local 925 news release, Katie Bugyis, an assistant professor of religious studies, said she was “overjoyed” by the election’s results.

“I am very excited to join with my colleagues to continue working for a brighter future for our university,” she said.

Bugyis has been a supporter of the contingent faculty’s unionization effort and helped organize a walkout and teach-in last fall that drew about 100 faculty, staff members and students. Faculty members and other union supporters also held a one-day walkout March 1.

When Saint Martin’s adjunct and contingent faculty members voted to unionize last summer, pay was one of their top concerns.

However, university officials have asked the National Labor Relations board for a stay in the certification of that vote, saying they don’t believe the NLRB has jurisdiction over a religious institution.

By using BallotPoint instead of the NLRB, tenured and tenure-track faculty members and librarians are hoping to avoid religious exemption appeals, according to the union’s news release.

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433, @Lisa_Pemberton

  Comments