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SEIU Authorization Cards

Modified: February 21, 2017

We have recently learned that a local union, Local 73 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), has sent emails to Northwestern graduate students asking you to follow a link to sign a “confidential authorization card.” We would like to provide you with some information about both union authorization cards and Local 73 of the SEIU.

  • Authorization cards are not merely informational—they are binding. 
  • The SEIU has asked you to sign a card that requires you to declare that you authorize the SEIU to be your exclusive representative in collective bargaining.  
  • By signing the card, you are agreeing to be represented by the SEIU. 
  • This is true even if your signature is electronic and not in writing.
  • The SEIU’s form also asks you to provide personal information, including your email address, home address and phone number, and requires you to agree to receive text messages and automated calls to your phone number. 
  • The SEIU may use your card to petition the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hold a representation election if it can show that 30% of the members of an appropriate bargaining unit support union representation.   
  • It is not necessary to sign a card in order to vote in an election. It is your right under federal law to refuse to sign a union card. Please note that nobody has the right to threaten, harass, or pressure you in any way to sign a card.
  • If you have already signed a card, you do not have to vote “yes” in an election, if one is held.

The email sent by Local 73 to Northwestern graduate students also touted Local 73 as “the fastest growing higher education union in Chicago.”  Here is what we know about that claim:

  • Local 73 of the SEIU only recently began seeking to represent non-tenure track faculty at Chicago-area universities.
    • In late 2015, it successfully organized select non-tenure track faculty at Loyola University and the University of Chicago. 
  • To date it has not achieved a contract at either campus.
  • While Local 73 of the SEIU has organized a unit of 210 graduate students at Loyola, only about one-third of the students actually voted in favor of the union.  According to news reports:
    • Only 120 of the 210 students voted in the election.
  • Of that 120 who voted, only 59% voted in favor of the union – or about 71 graduate students.
  • That means that two-thirds of the graduate students either voted “no” or did not vote at all. 
  • It also means that only 71 of the graduate students determined the fate of all 210 graduate students now in the bargaining unit.

Before signing the Local 73’s authorization card, please take the time to learn more about this organization and about unionization in general. Please visit this website for a variety of helpful information, including FAQs and key resources designed to help you navigate this topic. 

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